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Fingers crossed that NWC raises its $100m…

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

News from the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) that the chances of drought and recurrent dry spells have increased in most of the region during the first three months of this year should not surprise anyone who has been keeping abreast of climate change's impact on the Earth.

Indeed, the Caribbean has, over the past five years, received heavy blows from shifts in weather patterns, and experts have projected that the region could lose US$22 billion annually by 2050 due to the effects of prolonged droughts, intense rainfall, flooding and hurricanes.

According to the CIMH, an El Niņo forecast for this year suggests increases in the chances of drought, recurrent dry spells and extreme drought.

The institute is also reported as stating that, as of December 1 last year, short-term drought in parts of The Bahamas, Cuba, and Hispaniola has been recorded, while there have been long-term situations in the Cayman Islands, southern-most Hispaniola, eastern Jamaica and much of the Leeward Islands.

The CIMH added that shorter-term drought is evolving in Barbados, the Cayman Islands, and coastal Suriname, and is possible in many other areas, while there is long-term drought concern in Antigua, northern Bahamas, Cayman Islands, western Cuba, Grenada, eastern Jamaica, and St Kitts, and may possibly develop in many other areas in the Caribbean.

Of great concern is the institute's forecast that temperatures will, at times, become uncomfortably hot, with the possibility of heat waves in May, particularly in Belize and Trinidad.

Traditionally, the dry period runs from January to March each year. As such, it is important that the authorities plan ahead and put in place the necessary measures to limit the effects of drought.

Already, we are hearing the National Water Commission (NWC) here in Jamaica appealing to people living in St James and Hanover to store water as those parishes are currently affected by drought.

In fact, just last week the NWC reported that production of potable water has declined by 50 per cent at facilities in both parishes due to drought conditions.

The result, the NWC said, is that its customers will experience intermittent water supply, low water pressure or no water in some communities.

Unfortunately, those inconveniences are not limited to St James and Hanover as Jamaicans in other parishes have, for weeks, been complaining about a lack of water in their pipes.

The problem has been particularly bad in sections of the capital city, and has been exacerbated by the road improvement works now underway in some areas.

The NWC has told us that it is seeking US$100 million to execute several projects geared at boosting water supplies in Kingston and St Andrew which reportedly uses an average 40 million gallons per day.

We hope, for the sake of consumers, the NWC is able to raise the money for this project because it is unacceptable that in 2019 Jamaica people are still inconvenienced by irregular water supply in the capital city.

But even as the NWC seeks funding for this project it cannot feel proud that there remain many communities across the island where access to potable water is a problem. And with the dry months now upon us, that problem will worsen.

What is in dire need is a comprehensive project to properly collect, manage and distribute water islandwide.