St. Elizabeth councillors want investment in water
Dealing with yearly seasonal drought conditions in St. Elizabeth, the nation's 'breadbasket', has worsened in recent times for residents despite increased dependent on minor water supplies such as rainwater catchment tanks.
Farming-driven areas such as the Myersville and Malvern divisions in the parish are two regions that are most heavily dependent on such systems.
However, the system's management and reliability is often questioned. Residents told THE WEEKEND STAR that the existing parish catchment tanks are not enough for farming as well as domestic use.
In fact, they are calling for more investment in water in the parish.
"We have a parish tank over by Thorton Mountain, but when it dry we have to walk a people yard and beg dem a pan of water, or we buy a drum of water for $300 from the people dem who sell from the truck," said Claudette Porter of Upper Warminster, which falls in the Myersville division.
Purchasing water, however, is also a challenge for residents as water trucks seldom visit their respective communities.
"Some people have one drum and when they catch the water it can't serve more than two to three days, because nuff a dem have pickney clothes to wash, plus you affi bathe, cook and drink. And if you get this week, you a go hear next week say you did get the week before and that cannot work," Porter explained.
It is understood that farming is also on a downward spiral as many people have dropped out of the farming profession. Those who remain have resorted to planting crops that can withstand the drought, creating a deficit on essential crops that may end up having to be imported.
Layton Smith, councillor for the Myersville division, said he has been lobbying for increased water investment in his division. He stated that he was successful on repairing a catchment tank last year to supply Warminster and surrounding neighbourhoods.
"What we have done was run some three standpipes down the lane so residents can get water. Differently, there is also a wayside catchment filter in the area," Smith explained.
"However, only five of the six catchment tanks in the division are operational. One is leaking and we need some funding to repair it because the entire Myersville Division has about 38 to 40 districts, the majority of which have no NWC water," outlined.
MINOR WATER SUPPLY
Among other things, the St Elizabeth Parish Council is responsible for the management of 46 minor water supply systems which comprise rainwater catchment tanks, wayside tanks, entombed springs and gravity-fed systems attached to community standpipes.
The provision of water also includes the trucking of water to areas which are not served by potable underground water supplies. Smith told THE WEEKEND STAR that the trucking of water is expensive as it costs more than $18,000 for a truckload totalling close to $700,000 each year.
Daren Powell, councillor for the Malvern division, echoed similar sentiments.
"If a councillor should get the minimum $100,000 to distribute water, it is not going to be enough, because when a truckload of water moves it is just for that community, and some communities have so many houses. So you have to go back there with two to three truckloads, and even by that time, in another two days time you getting a call from the community again," he explained.
Powell added that he has made representation for the restoration of two reservoirs that has remained out of operation for the past 29 years, but his proposal has fallen on deaf ears at the parish council.
"One day I went into a particular community and I saw some people who for days didn't bathe, and as a councillor, it brings shame on you, not because you don't want to help but the resources are not available," Powell said.