MANDEVILLE, Manchester — While the country waited for the restoration of water supply to schools, hospitals and other essential services, principal of Maggotty High Sean Graham suggested that now is an opportune time to revisit the need for more rainwater harvesting.
“It is a good time for us to look at the schools having rainwater harvesting, [so] that when these things come up we are not so badly affected. Government needs to invest in things like this,” he told the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday following the second day of a strike by National Water Commission (NWC) workers over an outstanding job reclassification.
Graham said the St Elizabeth-based institution, which has a population of 1,300 students, relied on its reserves to continue face-to-face classes.
He added that during a meeting with Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth North Western JC Hutchinson on Friday, the suggestion of rainwater harvesting was made.
“I told him that we are ready now for water harvesting, so we don’t have to depend on NWC in that way. I didn’t even know that this week we would be having this crisis,” said Graham.
“The rainfall that happens in Maggotty, we should really reach a place where we can do our own water harvesting,” he added.
School leaders in Manchester and St Elizabeth who spoke with the Jamaica Observer concurred with Graham as all but one institution had depleted their reserved water.
Principal of St Elizabeth Technical High in Santa Cruz Keith Wellington said his institution was not affected by the strike, due to a well and treatment facility being in use at the school.
“We have a 30,000-galloon (tank), but remember it is a well, so we can pump… and treat it at any time. We would have a bigger problem if it was an electricity (outage),” he said.
“I think every private and public facility should make provisions for rainwater harvesting. We have too much water in Jamaica for us to be bothered when something like this happens,” he said,
“Rainwater harvesting is something that every citizen, as well as companies, should tap into just like solar systems, I think water harvesting is just as important,” he added.
Principal of May Day High in Manchester Stanford Davis said although he is in support of rainwater harvesting, his concern is that the water will need to be treated.
“Based on the recommendations from the health department, we can have rainwater harvesting. The problem is that it should not be mixed, because the water from the NWC is treated water,” he said,
“If we are doing rainwater harvesting, we have to either get it treated or we use it for things that do not need treated water,” he added.
He said if the commodity does not return today, it would affect classes.
“We have a storage tank that the capacity is usually for one day. We don’t have anything to replenish it, so it means that we would have truck water in and it is usually the NWC that [does that],” he said.
Principal of Belair High in Mandeville Lawrence Rowe said the school’s tanks were almost empty on Wednesday.
“If I don’t get the NWC up and running by (Thursday) afternoon into Friday then I might be in serious problems,” he said.
He added that a return to virtual classes was being considered.
“We still use the virtual learning space for assignment (submission). We would rather stay in the physical space right now, but if it comes to the test and we have no choice then we will go back to the virtual space,” he said.
Principal of McIntosh Memorial Primary in Manchester Vyonnie Walters said classes had to be suspended due to the lack of water.
“We used up all the reserves that we had and we called and they told us that they would be unable to truck us any water, so we had to send home the children,” she said.
“We still have our online arrangement, so our children will return to virtual teaching and learning (today) until we are sure that water will be restored,” she added.
At the same time, regional director at the Southern Regional Health Authority Michael Bent is hoping that the commodity is returned to the 74 health centres and five hospitals in Clarendon, Manchester and St Elizabeth quickly.
Businesses were also affected, as president of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce Simone Spence-Johnson was concerned as to how long the strike would continue for.
“We in Mandeville know that we have a water issue and it is something that we are constantly discussing and seeing how we can work on [it]. Some of us have tanks… but we are not sure how long this (strike) is going to be,” she said.
The NWC workers were expected to return to work, starting at 11 Wednesday night, but it was expected to take some time for all water systems to be back to full service.