Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Point finger of blame at NWC, says UWI

Published:Friday | November 20, 2015 | 11:00 AM

The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, has taken note of your article in The Gleaner of Tuesday, November 17, 2015 titled 'Waste piling up as water crisis grips UWI'. It has also seen an article published in The Gleaner of Wednesday, November 18, 2015 titled 'NWC not at fault for UWI water crisis', in which the National Water Commission, through its corporate communications manager, has said it is "not to blame for the water problems being experienced at the Mona Campus ..." and further, that "the problems are as a result of internal issues on the campus".

The UWI is of the view that the statement from the NWC does not adequately address the matter of water supplies to the institution. While the Mona campus, like the rest of the country, has been advised by the NWC that water restrictions have been lifted and that the level of supply has been improved, this has not resulted in full restoration of supply to the campus.

Indeed, Mr Buchanan himself, in an article published in The Gleaner of Sunday, November 8, 2015, admitted that water restrictions on the campus had not been fully lifted. I quote:

"The university is primarily supplied from the Hope Filter Plant. That facility has to serve a wide number of areas, and based on the way it is laid out, if you concentrate your service on the university campus too exclusively, you will end up depriving large parts of other communities of water," said Buchanan.

"So you can't serve all of them at the same time unless the situation is normalised at the plant, and it is not fully back to normal," said Buchanan. (http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20151108/uwi-downplays-cash-flow...)

The reality is that the water supply to the campus through the NWC system is not yet adequate. The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) has established certain service standards for the NWC. The OUR's Statement on Quality of Standards Scheme for National Water Commission Table A: Overall Standards Code WSO2 indicates that the NWC should maintain minimum/maximum water pressure ranging from 20-60psi.

Pressures on the campus vary from as high as 50psi at the Mona Bowl to 5psi at Irvine Hall. Based on readings at Irvine Hall, it appears that the pressure at the point of entry to the campus is often below the minimum standard. There have also been days when there is no water in the mains.

Given these fluctuations in pressure, it is clear that the NWC's supply of water to the campus is inconsistent, and further, that the delivery pressure is not in compliance with the OUR guidelines, thereby aggravating the situation on the Mona campus.

In addition, despite the improvement in the inflows of water to their facilities, the NWC has informed the Mona campus that its systems are not yet back to full operation and that the Hope Filter Plant, which supplies the campus, is shut down at night. This overall restriction in the supply mainly affects the northern sections of the campus, which are at a higher elevation.

Against that background, it is unfortunate that the NWC should suggest that the water problems on the campus are solely caused by 'internal issues' on the campus.

The UWI has been taking steps to address the problem by assigning UWI trucks and engaging external companies to deliver water to the affected halls of residence and departments. The delivery schedule for the halls was agreed with the Student Services personnel and implemented several months ago during the height of the disruptions.

This schedule provided for sufficient water to cover the basic needs - not the average 'normal' daily usage. There have been challenges. During the week of November 9, for example, the trucking schedule was amended based on an expectation that the NWC situation had improved significantly. However, this improvement, in fact, did not materialise with a resulting shortfall in deliveries for a few days.

Trucking continues to be utilised as the main strategy for supplementing the NWC supply to the halls. The requirements are established daily through monitoring of the NWC supply pressures and ongoing communication between the Estate Management Department and Student Services personnel. The university continues to monitor the situation and regular checks are being done to ensure that the halls of residence have water in the bathrooms and the kitchens and that these areas are being kept clean.

The UWI will continue to work with the NWC in addressing the water-supply situation.

- Carroll Edwards, PhD, is director, marketing, recruitment and communications. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and marketing.communications@uwimona.edu.jm.