Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Mark Wignall | Good news for NWC?

Published:Thursday | September 6, 2018 | 12:07 AM
The NWC is on a drive to repair old and broken water mains in the Corporate Area. This section of Duke Street in downtown Kingston has been dug up in preparation for work to begin. FILE

The National Water Commission (NWC) seems to be a friend to no one and an enemy to many. Months ago, I had reason to visit its head office on Marescaux Road because my water supply was interrupted (wrongly, in my view) and, surprisingly, I found the staff to be near heroic, especially faced with many customers quite close to getting violently physical with them.

Recently, a well-known journalist wrote about the horrors associated with the NWC digging up road surfaces, laying new pipes, and leaving long trenches of dirt and, maybe, some marl as covering. If it rains, that soft substrate is washed away, and motorists are prone to all sorts of dangers, especially in the nights.

The theme of that piece was that one need not utilise rocket science to know that the NWC and the National Works Agency (NWA) ought to work in tandem to ensure that there is minimal lag time between the NWC digging up our roads and the NWA moving in to complete its resurfacing responsibility.

In addition to that perennial problem, there is the matter of leakage of the world's most precious product. The four-inch NWC main under our roadways are old and falling apart. They are being replaced, but only as the need arises, that is, when obvious leaks make their way to the surface, thousands of gallons gush out and immediate action is forced on the NWC.




It sounds unbelievable, but each day around 20 per cent of clean water produced in the world is lost as a result of leaky pipes. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, this amounts to an estimated six billion gallons of clean water per day in the

US alone. The problem is exacerbated by current detection technology, which means that most of the leaks are either not found or discovered too late, after they've already caused sinkholes and burst pipes, said a September 4 article from Digital Trends - Award Winning Robot Travels 'Through Water Pipes to Detect Leaks.'

It would be a safe bet to make that in Jamaica the NWC is losing more that 20 per cent of its supply to leaks, so this ought to be quite good news for our local utility companies, which some people believe ought to be privatised.

Having just won the 2018 James Dyson Award, which celebrates news inventors, "The award-winning creation is the work of recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) doctoral graduate You Wu. Called Lighthouse, the low-cost bot is designed to travel through water pipes on the hunt for leaks before they turn into major problems.




"All a technician needs to do to use Lighthouse is to insert it into a water pipe by way of an existing hydrant. It then passively flows through the pipe, navigating around pipe elbows, discovering leaks due to the suction force of the puncture. It then measures the strength of the suction and records details of its location. The technician can then retrieve the robot when it's flushed out of the pipes through a hydrant and wirelessly download a map of leaks."

That would not cover the subcultural behaviour of those who have been taught by their parents and grandparents that utilities like light and power and water must be had by 'tiefing it'.

About two decades ago, I found myself in a deep-rural community in Clarendon, and while visiting some very decent poor people at their home, I noticed that they had a flexible plastic pipe constantly leaking water. They told me that just before an election, a well-known politician had provided them with all the piping and fixtures to connect to the main, about 50 metres from their home.

Let it run, of course. It's only you and I paying.