Editorial: Coping with a drier world
Once again, water restrictions are in force. It has become an annual ritual, especially for Corporate Area residents, to experience water lock-offs as the effects of below-average rainfall and hot, dry conditions take their toll.
In the face of these conditions, there is no doubt that Jamaica and other small, developing states need to respond to climate-change impacts if they are to prevent this crisis from becoming a catastrophe. A drier world is predicted for the future.
But we must face the truth: In this 'land of wood and water', the country's water resources have not been properly managed over many years. Successive
administrations have failed to balance the water needs of the population with that of the environment. And increasingly, summer months have become miserable, with unbearable heat and the absence of water.
Earlier this week, it was announced that an Israeli entity is to help slash water leakage, which is estimated at 108 million litres each day. The burden of responsibility falls squarely on the National Water Commission (NWC) to act in the public interest by embarking on the necessary works to cut its average daily loss through leakage.
Our farmers have been hard hit. They are counting their losses because of lower yields and crop damage. The end result is that the country faces the prospect of importing a wide range of produce to satisfy local demand. With predictions of drought way into the future, can our farmers be expected to face these harsh conditions year after year?
Commercial entities, such as car-wash operators and leisure properties which rely on swimming pools as part of the attraction, seem set to be affected by the ban of water usage for non-essential use. The NWC needs to explain if commercial operations are exempt from this ban.
It is tough to expect persons to watch plants in which they have invested so much time and resources become scorched by heat. It is even more painful to sit and watch ornamental fish die because fish tanks cannot be cleaned and washed.
Conservation should not be the mantra for drought periods alone. The culture of conserving energy and water resources should become entrenched in Jamaica. For example, incentives to install low-flow toilets and showers with effective water-reduction mechanisms should be introduced.
While water conservation is a great strategy to adopt, it does not bring into the mix 'new' water resources to satisfy a growing population and various commercial interests.
So, what are the options open to Jamaica to avoid mandatory water restrictions? For many years, there has been talk about establishing desalination plants. These are expensive and so are not likely to be undertaken in the short term. How about tackling the decaying water-storage facilities that are believed to hold more silt and debris than water? Should a new reservoir be built? Should recycling be used to ease the farmers' burdens?
And while the NWC gets ready to monitor the use of water for what it calls non-essential purposes, we are calling for community vigilance to deal with persons who light open fires. It is inconceivable that persons continue to light fires in circumstances where strong winds will quickly fan these flames.