MANDEVILLE, Manchester — With the country experiencing drought, Government Minister Matthew Samuda says the Administration is looking to tap into more wells to supplement the country's water supply.
"All options are on the table for all parishes across the country. There are many wells that we would have rested in recent times, because sometimes the quality of water, the cost of extraction, because not all wells extract at the same costs that we have had to turn on to ensure that people are getting some amount of water in their pipes," he said on Thursday.
"There are many wells that we are looking at. Obviously, we have to look at the quality. Some wells nationally are facing salt-water intrusion as well as high nitrate quantities, so we are looking at all the options and whenever we find a well that can be easily accessed and reasonably accessed from a cost perspective, we [will] mobilise it quickly and rest other systems," added Samuda.
He was responding to questions posed by journalists while on tour of the Greater Mandeville Water Supply Improvement Project. He said the Government has spent over $670 million on the project, which he estimates will surpass $4 billion for completion.
"Over the next 12 to 24 months, residents at each node will start to see the improvement in the regularity, reliability of their water supply. This is a major capital investment to benefit the communities of Pepper, Gutters, Font Hill and Goshen heading all the way to the people of Mandeville," said Samuda.
The Pepper well field, downslope at low altitude in St Elizabeth, is the main source of water for Mandeville, which is more than 2,000 feet above sea level, atop the Manchester Plateau.
He said the Pepper well field is being upgraded.
"We have already spent some $200 million at that facility and we are seeing the progress of that work. We would have already completed the installation of a 200,000-gallon upgraded tank. The drilling for our new well, which will surpass 500 feet, is well underway. Several other elements are coming together to ensure that we do meet our projected completion timeline of the end of this year for that system," he said.
Minister Samuda reiterated that the Government is planning to utilise solar energy to reduce the high cost of pumping water uphill to Mandeville.
He said the Government remains committed in its response to the current drought.
"The prime minister would have it in his presentation last week Friday at the press conference as it relates to drought mitigation measures. We have committed some $150 million — $50 million in the first tranche, now $100 [million] to deal with the worst affected areas," Samuda said.
"We are monitoring it on a parish by parish level. Nationally in January, we would have had 32 per cent of our 30-year average… in rainfall, so we are having particular challenges, it is a result of climate change. Yes, we are used to drought, but this is a particularly bad drought and we are ensuring that we mobilise as quickly as is possible to ensure that truck deliveries go to the communities which are most affected," he added.
He said the Government has been in consultation with the Meteorological Service to assess the worst-affected areas.
"Some communities have actually started to see drought in November, so the communities having the hardest time are getting served first, so we ask for patience, but we commit that the money is indeed being deployed. We don't enjoy trucking [water], but we do it because it is absolutely critical to ensure that those communities which are suffering the most get served first," said Samuda.
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