VIDEO-Water shortage now critical, says Pickersgill
Forecast shows below normal rainfall until year-endWednesday, July 01, 2015
THE Government has sounded the alarm that the dry spell that the country is now experiencing will not let up anytime soon, with the situation already reaching critical proportions in some parishes, such as Clarendon and St Thomas.
Jamaicans can expect that if there is no significant rainfall, the drought, which has already forced the National Water Commission (NWC) to implement a tight schedule of lock-offs, will affect the island until at least the end of this year.
"Based on the forecast models, we are expected to receive below normal rainfall for July through to November. This is troubling for us, as we move into the dry season, towards the end of the year as well as the first three months of 2016," portfolio minister, Robert Pickersgill said at a press conference held at the Kingston offices of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) yesterday.
Pickersgill said that since January only 74 per cent of normal rainfall has occurred, with the least amount in May, which is the secondary rainy period.
Already, critical water sources, including dams, reservoirs and rivers, are being depleted, or have all but dried up. According to the NWC, as of Monday, storage levels at the Mona Reservoir was at 32.8 per cent, or 264.4 million gallons, out of a capacity of 808.5 million.
Also, levels at the Hermitage Dam are down from 393.5 million gallons to 173.8 million gallons, or 44.2 per cent of capacity. "At the best of times, the inflow would be 22 million gallons per day," Minister Pickersgill said. Production at the Hope Treatment Plant has dropped to 3.7 million gallons per day, a little over half of its normal capacity.
Pickersgill further said that the Mona Treatment Plant is now seeing production of 16 million gallons per day dropped to 7.1 million gallons, while production at the Constant Spring Treatment Plant has gone down to 5.4 million gallons per day, from 20 million gallons.
The water minister emphasised that "the situation is critical for some parishes," pointing out that Clarendon and St Thomas recorded only eight, and 16 per cent of its normal rainfall for the month of May. Manchester saw only 40 per cent, while St Mary recorded 30 per cent, and Portland 34 per cent. These parishes are all said to be experiencing "severe drought".
Pickersgill added that Kingston and St Andrew, St Ann, St Elizabeth, and St James are having what is categorised as "normal drought", at 46 per cent, 51 per cent, 55 per cent, and 57 per cent of their normal levels, respectively.
The hurricane season may not provide any relief either, as only seven storms have been named, with a forecast for only three hurricanes out of an average six systems.
Pickersgill outlined a number of short-term mitigation measures which the NWC is undertaking. These include the usual prohibition notice for all areas of the island which are affected by the drought.
This is intended to stop individuals from wasting water on activities such as washing vehicles using a hose, watering lawns, and farms, as well as refilling tanks, and swimming pools, washing pavements and roadways, and "any purpose which may require excessive quantity of water".
He also said the NWC is "exploring the possibility of introducing additional water into the supply network in the shortest time possible" from wells in the Corporate Area.
Furthermore, he said trucking has also been employed as a mitigation measure. Affected farmers, particularly in the southern sections of the island, can expect assistance from the Rapid Response Unit, through the National Irrigation Commission.
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