Frustrated with the age-old water problem, residents of Rock River, Clarendon, and neighbouring communities are hopeful that the planned development of a dam in the area will bring ease in access of the essential commodity.
During a visit to the parish last Thursday, residents told the Jamaica Observer about their distress of purchasing water, and travelling miles to Oaks River and Rio Minho to get the commodity for household purposes.
Member of Parliament for Clarendon North Central Robert Nesta Morgan, however, assured that residents can expect a change in their water supply in a few years.
"What is important is the fact that, finally, the people of Chapelton and Rock River within another year or two will have a proper source through which to get water to improve their lives," said Morgan, adding that 2.3 million gallons of water will be supplied to the communities with approval from the Water Resources Authority.
Noting that efforts to get water from wells dug in Rock River proved futile, Morgan said, "We have three wells but because of climate and deforestation the aquifers in this area have become silted, so we only have one [functioning] well and the other might chip in if there is enough in the aquifer. The Government decided to dig some wells on the other side of the river, but after digging the well, we realised that we were not getting enough water so the decision has been made and it was announced by the prime minister that we are going to dam this river," he added.
The residents agreed that the construction of a dam in Rock River would make a big difference in the community.
"The dam could work. Long time we have water issues; people dying fi that happen. During the dry season a lot of people have to buy water," said Spurjohn McLeod who has been living in Rock River for more than 50 years.
Another resident, Sueann Lyber, who is a farmer, said she needs better water supply to care for her animals.
"We affi buy water and it is very hard for us and some of us take care of animals. Mi raise chicken, pigs and goats," said Lyber.
"Mi affi buy water. Is $1,200 to full four drums and I have to full them every three days. The dam will make a big difference," she added.
At the same time, Natalie Jackson from Morris Hall told the Observer they she has to purchase water or go to the river to wash.
She stressed that she has been plagued by water problems for the last 22 years.
"Often times I'll even ask my son to carry me to the river to wash; that nuh right. Me cyaan even raise chicken like I really want to," she added.
"Water is the biggest problem we have. We go at least three miles to go wash at Oaks River and $4,000 fi full a water tank, and I have three which I have to full up every month. If the dam was here it would make a big difference. I wouldn't have to buy water to feed my animals," she said.
Likewise, Andre Williams, who is also from Morris Hall, said he and his family usually depend on the river and well for water.
Marlene Johnson of Mitchell's Hill had a similar plight.
"We have a great problem here, we can't afford to buy water, we need water. Me affi a buy water or pay taximan fi carry water home because I don't have no form of water storage, not even a tank," said Johnson, who has been living there for about 20 years.
Added resident Rosetta Taylor: "As long as the dam works [it would be good]." The Rio Minho and Oaks River, he said, carry a lot of water when its rains heavily, so it would be an excellent idea to have a dam to store all that water. "People would really appreciate the dam, even me, because we would finally be glad to get water."
In his 2023/2024 budget debate presentation, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that 21 projects with projected expenditure of more that $2.5 billion will see National Water Commission services being extended to new communities through the building of new dams in several communities in Clarendon, St Ann, St Catherine, Trelawny, St Elizabeth, St Andrew, St Mary, St Thomas, and Westmoreland.