JAMAICA IS, once again, facing a period of drought, but with no apparent plans, beyond rationing, that will immediately cushion the blow that the absence of water will deal to many in the population.
“It is good that we have started rationing water from early, but more needs to be done to fix the rusty leaky pipes and make the system more effective,” said Indi Mclymont Lafayette, managing director for Change Communications and who, for many years, was involved in environmental advocacy for vulnerable communities.
“At the policy level, we have to push rainwater harvesting – building houses with that capacity; and the Water Resources Authority should be more proactive in highlighting long-term water solutions,” she added.
“A new climate reality is coming and we have to move with more urgency as a country to get our population ready for long-term impacts, such as drought,” Mclymont-Lafayette said further.
Eleanor Jones, who is in charge of the consultancy firm Environmental Solutions Limited, said the time for talk is long past to safeguard water security.
“The issue of climate change has been with us and we have been talking. We have been talking about the longer droughts and warming temperatures which increase evaporation for what we do have, and it seems that, yes, every year we have water lock-offs and it is frustrating. The fact is that issue is much larger than the National Water Commission (and the water lock-offs),” she said.
“Do we understand, for example, that as a municipal council, we have a responsibility to ensure that we have the appropriate infrastructure to support all of the permits we are giving to have multiple units that are occupying single units? Where there was one house, there are now 10, etc. We cannot expect the National Water Commission to wave a magic wand to have the supply to meet these demands that have not been considered where water supply is concerned,” Jones added.
For Evan Thompson, who heads the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, adaptation strategies need to be seriously contemplated and urgently implemented.
“There is a lot more that could be done to better prepare for dry periods, especially since we know the reality of climate change. We must practise adaptation strategies. In other words, we have to build our capacity and increase the ability to provide for our needs,” he said.
At the same time, Thompson said water usage also has, of necessity, to be looked at.
“Current patterns of water usage need to change to make conservation a way of life. We have to get used to using less,” he maintained.
McLymont Lafayette agreed.
“Every Jamaican needs to ensure their water security by assessing their situation and finding short- and long-term ways to store water. So for some it may be having extra containers to last a day or two. For others, it could be buying a black tank, etc,” she said.
The need to look at usage and storage was punctuated by Jones, who is also a member of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica.
“So we are talking and, hopefully, we will complement the talking with real action because we now have an Integrated Water Management Council which is supposed to be overseeing the supply of water, putting in the infrastructure and so on. I hope that we really seriously look at all of the aspects, and storage is a critical aspect,” she said.
“We are going to have to, as individual citizens, expand our individual storage and just not expect miracles. What has happened in the past is that we have long dry periods and then as soon as we have flood rains, we forget that we have to pay attention to these things. However, we are going to have less rain, that is what climate change is about,” Jones added.