Water crisis needs urgent attention

May 31, 2019

Construction on the Hermitage Dam was completed in 1927, the Mona Reservoir in 1944. At the time when these facilities were done, I am guessing that about 200,000 or so people lived in Kingston and St Andrew, maybe 300,000.

In those 75 years, the population has grown; more than doubled, in fact. According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, as of 2018, approximately 670,000 people were living in Kingston and St Andrew, and obviously, there are more businesses as well.

This means that on any given day, there might be about one million people in Kingston and St Andrew, cooking, washing clothes, cars and everything that needs to be washed, and all the other things people need water to do.

Why then, after 75 years, have we not built another facility to accommodate the significant increase in demand for water in this part of the island?

During all this time, we have borrowed trillions of dollars to do everything else except increase the capacity of our water-harvesting facilities. Thus, every year during periods of drought, we have to watch the decreasing water levels like someone stranded in the middle of the desert with a gallon jug of water to keep us until he is rescued.

Those trillions that we borrowed left us with a heavy debt burden, but that is beginning to change. Tighter fiscal policies and better macroeconomic management have put us in better financial standing. Perhaps now is the time for us to start looking very seriously at increasing the capacities of both the Hermitage and Mona reservoirs, or simply building another facility.

Having lived in other Caribbean islands where I have never experienced water lock-offs of the nature of the ones I have lived through here, I must confess that it is embarrassing that we keep going through this every year.

People going 12, 24, 72 hours without water is unacceptable. There are people who haven't seen water coming from their taps for weeks at a time. This is outrageous.

With changing climate and more frequent droughts, there will be a time when we might not be bailed out by the weather. There will be a time when it won't rain in time to ease our fears. We need to do something as soon as possible.

The population of Kingston and St Andrew continues to grow, but somehow the resources they need are not. That creates an imbalance that desperately needs to be addressed, and frankly, there is no time like the present.

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