Wed | Apr 8, 2020

Mark Barnett | NWC committed to meeting Jamaica’s water needs

Published:Sunday | February 17, 2019 | 12:18 AM
National Water Commission employees Bobby Lewin (left) and Delroy Cherrington hard at work reconnecting the water supply to Tile City on Constant Spring Road, St Andrew, on Friday. Tile City has been experiencing water disruption due to the road development along Constant Spring Road over the past few months.
National Water Commission headquarters on Marescaux Road, Kingston

As customers are by now aware, the current challenges with water supply in the Corporate Area are primarily related to an irreparable break on the 18-inch Ferry Transmission Pipeline, as it is buried under 35 feet of earth and road infrastructure. This has deprived the National Water Commission (NWC) of 5.5 million gallons of water per day to distribute, or more than 10 per cent of the Corporate Area’s normal daily supply.

Unfortunately, the break in the pipeline is not only inaccessible but also happened ahead of completion of replacement pipelines being constructed in collaboration with the National Works Agency (NWA), as part of the country’s most ambitious and transformative Major Infrastructure Development Programme (MIDP). These new replacement transmission pipes are now expected to be completed by March.

As an interim measure, the commission is distributing water on a scheduled basis to the affected areas. The interim emergency measures are by no means perfect. And we regret that, given constraints with which we have had to contend, delivery of water is often intermittent and at lower-than-normal pressures.

Quite unfortunately, we also continue to be affected by frequent breaks on the major pipelines along Constant Spring Road and Hagley Park Road, because of ongoing roadworks along these corridors. These breaks frequently disturb our operations and planned schedules. We, therefore, are constantly reviewing and fine-tuning schedules to meet our commitments to our customers.

It is important to bear in mind that Jamaica’s water supply challenges are multifaceted and complex, and cannot be fixed overnight or without major investment. We are dealing with an aged and inadequate infrastructure which is wearing out and breaking down, which must be modernised to meet the country’s demands. NWC recognises the urgent need to expand our networks and increase the reliability of our services to give customers a guaranteed 24-hour water service year round.

To move us towards achieving that goal, we have developed a 15-year capital investment plan which identifies the need for US$3.5 billion of investment. This level of expenditure is well beyond the means of the NWC itself, but we are committed to delivering. We are now in the process of seeking funding from a mix of multilateral and bilateral funding, public-private partnership arrangements, commercial bank financing and internally generated revenue resources.

While we are planning ahead, we are also doing things now. A number of successful interventions aimed at meeting Jamaica’s potable water service needs are even now being carried out.

From our own resources and loan funds, NWC is now spending $6.66 billion, allocated in our 2018-2019 budget, to improve and expand water services islandwide. This represents an increase in expenditure, from $4.18 billion in 2017-2018 and $4.32 billion spent in 2016-2017.


Major funds are now being spent on these projects:

- $5 billion for water and sewerage-related infrastructure improvement under the transformative MIDP in collaboration with the NWA in Kingston and St Andrew alone.

- $4.9 billion on the Kingston and St Andrew Non-Revenue Water Reduction Programme.

- US$3 million on a Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition System for Kingston and St Andrew.

- $620 million to construct new wastewater treatment plants at Boscobel in St Mary and Elletson Flats in St Andrew.

- $1.1 billion to construct a new wastewater treatment plant to serve the town of Port Antonio, supporting the US$23 million spent on new water, drainage and sewerage networks completed before.

- US$21.5 million spent on the Portmore sewerage reconfiguration.

- $820 million spent on water supply wastewater systems improvement across the island.

At the end of 2018, some 63 water projects were being carried out islandwide in active construction and maintenance phases. Between 2017 and 2018, the NWC laid 137km of new potable water mains and more than 16km of new sewers to add to the pre-existing 11,000km of water pipes and 500km of sewers islandwide.

Not only are we implementing these project interventions, we are also beginning to see some good results. Non-revenue water levels in Kingston and St Andrew have declined significantly, and further improvements are expected as the programme continues.

Unavoidably, some inconvenience and disruption have attended the implementation of these projects. We empathise with and regret the discomfort to our valued customers when disruptions occur. It is our solemn pledge to work with the various implementation partners and stakeholders to keep disruptions to an absolute minimum.


Going forward, NWC has identified several other major projects under our 2015-2030 Capital Investment Plan for which we are seeking financing. Major elements include:

A. The continued pursuit of Public Private Partnerships.

- Construction of 15MGD content water treatment plant in St Catherine (US$60 million).

- Rehabilitation of wells for the provision of an additional five MGD of water in Kingston (J$700 million).

- Northern Parishes Water Supply Project to provide increased transmission and water production capacity along the northern corridor of the island (US$280 million).

- Portmore Non-Revenue Water Reduction to reduce water losses and improve service reliability (US$17 million).


B. Kingston Metropolitan Area – Transmission Mains replacement and Upgrading Programme

1. From Six Miles to Glenmore Road Booster Station.

2. From Stanton Terrace to the NWC’s Marescaux Road property.

3. Sections of Six Miles to Dunrobin Avenue.

Installation of the above transmission mains will cost approximately US$50 million. The Government has been approached for the financing, and once received, these projects can be completed within nine to 24 months. Other works for which engineering designs are already being done are:

4. New transmission main from Ferry to Rock Pond, Red Hills.

5. Ram’s Horn to Constant Spring Water Treatment Plant raw water pipeline.

6. Transmission main from Runaway Bay to Mammee Bay.


C. Renewable Energy Initiatives

We have engaged with the private sector for the installation of approximately 45MW floating photovoltaic (PV) system on the Mona reservoir. We are working to complete this activity within the last quarter of 2019. Other opportunities are being pursued at other locations for both PV and waste to energy possibilities.


D. Other Major and Critical Infrastructure Works for which financing is yet to be in place:

Downtown Sewerage Rehabilitation to accommodate the additional flows from the planned extension of the Corporate Area sewer network and the planned redevelopment of downtown Kingston (US$200 million).

Downtown Kingston Water Supply Network Rehabilitation to replace major sections of the water supply network to reduce losses and to provide improved capacity (US$400 million).

Centralised Sewerage Systems for Major Towns and Parish Capitals to include Old Harbour, May Pen, Mandeville, Falmouth, Spanish Town, and Santa Cruz (US$500 million).

-Three Towns Project to undertake the Non-Revenue Water Reduction for the towns of Old Harbour, May Pen and Mandeville via performance-based contracts, estimated at US$65 million.

Various Rural Water Supply Projects (J$400 million).

All of these interventions are being accompanied by organisational transformation, governance reviews and new initiatives aimed at tackling endemic delinquency and theft, which seriously affect our operational revenue.

The NWC is making every effort to provide the best service possible under very challenging circumstances. We remain fully committed to our Transformation Programme, which is tied to our vision of becoming the premier water services utility within the region, and our mission of contributing positively to national development by providing high-quality potable water and sewerage services in a cost-effective and sustainable manner.

- Mark Barnett is president of the National Water Commission. Email feedback to