NWC steps up water quality monitoring

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

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THE National Water Commission (NWC) — Jamaica's premier water service provider with 90 per cent of the local potable water market — is breaking new ground in water testing on the island with the implementation of a major three-year water resources assessment and sustainability project in Kingston and St Andrew, in collaboration with the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

According to the NWC, the project – an Assessment of the Kingston Hydrologic Basin – is aimed at strengthening the water management institutional capacity, provision of specialised equipment, training in enhanced water quality management, use of state-of-the-art nuclear technologies to assess the state of the Kingston Hydrologic Basin, and facilitate and inform the development of strategic and mitigating plans for protecting the water supply sources in the basin.

Under the IAEA-funded project, the NWC has invited the involvement of other key water sector players including the Water Resources Authority, National Environment and Planning Agency, the Ministry of Health, National Irrigation Commission, International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences, and academic institutions like the University of the West Indies (UWI). Training and capacity building in isotope hydrology, water chemistry, radio-chemistry and the development of the various types of water quality and hydrogeology maps for use in water resource assessment, allocation and protection will be undertaken, the NWC said.

It added that the technical co-operation project also involves participants using nuclear technology (stable isotopes) to develop maps that show the characteristics of the water including flow paths, directions and levels of contamination within the Kingston Hydrologic Basin.

The NWC recently received a Laser Stable Isotope Analyser and other specialised equipment for use at its laboratories under the 192,400-euro technical cooperation project from the IAEA. Additionally, a one-week training workshop on isotope hydrology was conducted from December 4 – 8 by Professor Ian Clark of the University of Ottawa at the NWC's Training Department.

Participants in the training workshop included NWC water quality personnel as well as representatives from other agencies such as the National Irrigation Commission, Ministry of Health, Water Resources Authority, National Environment Planning Agency, UWI, and the International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences.

According to NWC President Mark Barnett, “The assessment of the Kingston Hydrologic Basin Project between the NWC and the IAEA is not only significant because of the new ground it breaks in the use of nuclear technologies to study and protect the country's water resources, but also because it is a further demonstration of NWC's unrelenting commitment to the highest standards of water quality monitoring and sustainable water resource utilisation so as to ensure that the best quality water is available to Jamaicans now and into the future.”

Ninety-five per cent of the cost of the three-year project, which is scheduled to end in January 2019, is being borne by the IAEA and five per cent by the NWC. The technical cooperation agreement is monitored by the Planning Institute of Jamaica.

The IAEA — an agency of the United Nations — promotes the peaceful use of nuclear technologies in many fields including energy, human health, food protection, water management and environment protection.




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