Precious water project for south Manchester schools

Monday, January 14, 2019

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Mandeville, Manchester – For the people of southern Manchester, long droughts and water shortages come with the territory.

In fact, as Member of Parliament for Manchester Southern, Michael Stewart, is at pains to point out at every opportunity, most communities in that region receive no running water from the National Water Commission.

Many residents rely on water harvesting using rain water catchment tanks. But when the long drought sets in even large catchment tanks run dry leaving expensive trucked water as the only option.

Schools suffer more than most, especially during the traditional dry months from November to March.

“Each year I set aside somewhere in the region of $2 million in my Constituency Development Fund (CDF) for trucking water but when the schools call sometimes the money is finished, sometimes it finish by the end of the first quarter … such is the demand for water,” Stewart told the Jamaica Observer Central.

Pauline McKenzie, senior teacher at Woodlands Primary and Infant School — close to Cross Keys — said that in such times of desperation, the school has to find in excess of $18,000 to buy a truckload of water.

Those harsh realities influenced the Tony Freckleton-led Manchester Parish Development Committee to join forces with the Cross Keys Development Area Committee in a water harvesting and water quality project for Woodlands Primary, Grove Town Primary, Cross Keys High School and the Cross Keys Community Centre.

The $3.6 million project involved the renovation of water catchment tanks, guttering and piping to minimise waste, as well as the provision of chlorine kits and other equipment to ensure water quality. Funding for the eight-month project came from the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Ministry of Economic Growth.

“It's a sad fact that although billions of dollars of bauxite is being taken out of this area we don't have any running water so we know we have to act to help the community,” explained Freckleton.

He is now looking to a second phase which will involve other schools in the south Manchester area being similarly served. It's all part of the Manchester Parish Development Committee's aim to meet 2030 sustainable development goals which include providing potable water for everyone.

For Woodlands Primary Senior Teacher McKenzie, the bottom-line is that her school now has greater water security. “I can't tell you how grateful we are for this project,” she said.

Smeadly Reid, chairman of the Cross keys Development Area Committee, said the water harvesting project will allow schools to meet pressing needs other than water.

“Buying trucked water costs many thousands of dollars, so if we can save that money the schools will be better off,” Reid said.

— Garfield Myers

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