News

WRA to impose fee for water extracted from hydrologic basins

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, February 08, 2018

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THE Water Resources Authority (WRA) yesterday announced that, as of April 1, it will be implementing a fee for water abstraction across all 10 of the island's hydrologic basins to fund research, management of water resources, and monitor abstractors.

Deputy Managing Director of the WRA, Peter Clarke says annual earnings from the water abstraction charge is conservatively put at $25 million, because although the Authority has some 700 licences issued, the fee is based on the type of licence issued, and not the abstracted volumes.

“A lot of the licences are going to adjust down because they are not using that amount of water. It is intended to act as a management tool. One of the management functions will be that people will rationalise their actual demand, and there is no cost to reapply to adjust down,” he explained in an Observer interview.

The 700 licences apply to just under 200 abstractors, with the National Water Commission holding approximately 400 licences. The National Irrigation Commission, and the Jamaica Public Service company are also major WRA licencees.

Clarke stressed that: “It is not a tax; it's a charge and it is a small charge,” pointing out, for example, that the rate for the domestic category is $0.11 per thousand gallons. The lowest rate is applied to hydropower use, at $0.09 cents, and the rate for agricultural and industrial use is $0.17 cents.

The WRA insisted that the fee is timely and aims to achieve a better balance between demand and available resources. It is intended to cover expenditure on data collection, analysis and dissemination of data/information, water resources assessment, flood water control, and mapping.

The authority said the fees will fund water planning and management activities such as collection and analysing data to obtain better understanding of abstraction and impact on water resources; as well as the quality characteristics of water. The funds are also to be used for developing and implementing policies and plans to more effectively manage the island's water resources, and ensure equitable allocation.

The WRA deputy managing director stressed that the implements used in these critical tests and analysis are costly, and that the results and ability to plan, based on those results, is important for every Jamaican. “The little man is affected because if at the end of the day we don't manage the water resources properly, we won't have water to deliver to persons who need it for domestic purposes. So then everybody is affected. We want to be able to better respond to all of these things (droughts, floods, etc),” he stated.

In remarks at a press conference in Kingston yesterday, Dr Horace Chang, the minister in charge of water, said that in light of United Nations statistics that almost one quarter of the world's population will be facing economic water shortage, the fees were critical to sustain research in hydrology and the hydrogeological ecosystem of the country's water reserves.

Licencees will have the opportunity make payments in quarterly instalments at the end of June, September, December and March, based on invoices to be issued, the WRA said.

“While there is no direct link between the fee and the activities, the staffing of the WRA, fee collection rate and corporate/operational plans will determine annual expenditure of fees collected over time,” said the WRA.

Clarke, meanwhile, emphasised that the annual amounts are not expected to negatively impact the bottom line of any entity, as, for example, fees could work out to just over $2,000 for a water-bottling operation.

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