Water crisis - Residents and businesses in Negril cry for water

... as supply dries up; Exorbitant bills, yet no water, say Negril residents

BY HORACE HINES Observer West reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, June 14, 2012

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NEGRIL, Westmoreland - MAYOR of Savanna-la-Mar Bertel Moore is calling on the National Water Commission (NWC) to embark on a massive drive to truck water into the Negril area, as the supply of the commodity distributed by the utility company continues to diminish.

"We are facing a very serious problem with water (shortage) in Negril. When I say bad, I mean very, very bad. There are several areas which are not getting any water from the system. Areas such as Westlands Mountain, Red Ground, West End, Whitehall, Good Hope, Mount Airy, Orange Hill, Hesket, Wire Lane, and Retreat," bemoaned the Savanna-la-Mar mayor, who is also the People's National Party (PNP) councillor for the Negril division.

"Something needs to be done immediately to get the situation much better and the only thing that I can think of is some serious trucking as a short-term solution."

The acute shortage of water is said to be affecting both domestic and commercial customers of the NWC, including some hotels in the resort town of Negril.

President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) Evelyn Smith noted that some hoteliers in Negril have been complaining that they are dogged by low water pressure.

"There are times when the water pressure is low. The properties which are further away from Logwood (water treatment plant) are the most impacted. By the time the water gets to West End, in some case it is minimal if any at all," she disclosed.

She noted that the industry is not only affected by the low water pressure at hotels, but hotel employees who reside in the community where there is a shortage of the commodity, are also negatively impacted.

"If there is something that needs to be adjusted, it needs urgent attention because if this keeps up it will have an adverse effect. Some properties have actually had to truck water in," Smith argued.

Earlier this week, residents in some of the affected communities visited by the Observer West news team complained bitterly over the hardship they are experiencing due to the absence of piped water.

"We cannot cope for much longer without water in our pipes. Water only comes sometimes early in the mornings and we have to be purchasing water," rued a resident of Sheffield, who gave him name as "Shandy Man."

In the neighbouring community of Good Hope, irate residents bemoaned the absence of the commodity from their pipes. They complain that they have to be paying exorbitant sums for water that is being trucked into the small community.

A female resident charged that despite the fact that they are not getting water in their taps they continue to get exorbitant bills from the NWC.

"Them still a send these high bills come and we have to be paying over $3,000 for a load of water," the female resident rued, as she displayed a bill from the utility company.

Meanwhile, NWC Vice- President in charge of Technical Services, Mark Barnett explained that the chronic shortage of water is as a result of a two-month drought which has dried up the Negril water source by 50 per cent.

"An assessment of our production shows that we have fallen from 7.5 million gallons per day to currently about 3.5 million gallons, which is more than a 50 per cent drop in terms of the water produced for distribution," Barnett explained, following a tour of the Logwood treatment plant and Fish River water supply in Hanover earlier this week.

The NWC vice-president was accompanied by Moore and Luther Buchanan, minister of state in the Office of the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, Moore is calling for the installation of a loading bay — where water is pumped for trucking — in the Bay Road area, which he argues is nearer to Negril than the ones located in Petersfield and Bullstrut.

"There are two loading bays, one in Bullstrut; one in Petersfield. I am recommending that they try and find somewhere in Bay Road and put another loading bay so they can get water from the Roaring River side in order to truck some water down here (Negril). Because when the trucks comes to Negril to deliver water and have to go all the way back to Petersfield, that is quite a distance," Moore pointed out.

But while Moore's proposal has received the approval of Buchanan, the state minister in the Office of the Prime Minister said the water ministry in the medium term, plans to link the Logwood and Fish River distribution systems to the Roaring River and Great River water supplies in Westmoreland, and St James, respectively.

"Plan A is for the trucking of water. Plan B is the medium- term plan to join up with the Roaring River water supply, the Great River water supply and that would alleviate in the medium term some of the problems," Buchanan argued.




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