Solar power to remedy Mandeville water issues, says Samuda
Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Matthew Samuda speaking at the Manchester Chamber of Commerce awards banquet held at Golf View Hotel in Mandeville last Saturday. (Photo: Gregory Bennett)

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Government minister Matthew Samuda says the Administration plans to utilise solar energy to reduce the high cost of pumping water uphill to this south-central town.

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.

"Starting from south St Elizabeth, beside all of the major pump houses we will be purchasing the land necessary to ensure we have the space to put in solar power to start reducing the cost of pumping water to Manchester," Samuda, the minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, said at the Manchester Chamber of Commerce's awards banquet last Saturday.

The function was held at Golf View hotel in Mandeville to honour members of the business community in Manchester.

Mandeville and surrounding communities have struggled with water shortage for decades, with town elders insisting over a period of many years that the problem has hindered growth.

Many households in Manchester and the wider south-central Jamaica have had to rely on rainwater harvesting.

The long-standing issue of water supply has not only affected households, but commerce, with businesses suffering from the inconsistency in the supply of the precious commodity.

Samuda pointed to the investment being made in the Greater Mandeville Water Supply Improvement Project.

"The reality is, in the Mandeville water improvement programme, the Government, between last year and four years from now, will invest $2.3 billion in ensuring that [the people of] Mandeville receive water reliably in their pipes for over 23 hours a day, which is the global standard," he said.

Noting that water in Manchester is primarily "bedevilled" by the price of energy, Samuda said that the parish is the second-highest consumer of electricity for the National Water Commission (NWC).

"It is impatient of debate that to fix the water issue in Manchester we have to fix the energy issues in Jamaica. It is why it is our articulated ambition for Jamaica, by 2030, to ensure that 50 per cent of our energy production comes from renewables," he said.

"Jamaica's energy problem plays out in Manchester's water supply every single day, but we are going to fix it by engaging in modern production using renewable sources…We are going to ensure that it is easier for renewables to be onboarded with your electricity bill; it is critical for your household price [and supply of] water," he added.

Minister Samuda said the NWC plans to upgrade more than 900 pumping stations with energy-efficient equipment over the next three years.

"We have analysed all of our pump houses nationally. We have looked at every single pump, which is old [and] electricity usage… Knowing which pumps are using the greatest amount of electricity and understanding the age of these pumps and the fact that modern pumps use much less electricity, we have started a process with the Ministry of Finance to replace many of the 40- and 50-year-old pumps that are running up our energy usage… In three years you will not have aged electrical infrastructure," he said.

BY KASEY WILLIAMS Observer staff reporter kaseyw@jamaicaobserver.com

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