Tue | Aug 11, 2020

Donna Blake | Investing in a Water Fund for Kingston

Published:Tuesday | July 14, 2020 | 12:36 AM
Donna Blake
Donna Blake

The Jamaican private sector has a catalytic role to play in establishing a Water Fund that would mobilise stakeholder action to achieve water security for Kingston by channelling more resources into protecting the Wag Water River Watershed, one of Jamaica’s 26 watersheds and the primary source of water to the city.

A 2020 study commissioned by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), with the support of the Coca-Cola Foundation (a member of the Latin America Water Fund Partnership), provides a stark picture of Kingston’s water situation:

Domestic water security challenges: Lack of piped, potable water supply to some residents, with only about 30 per cent access to central sewerage services; and the historical use of septic tanks and soak away pits has led to contamination of some of Kingston’s aquifers.

Economic water security challenges: Water usage by the growing city population is higher than public water supply capacity forecast by the 1990 Water Resources Development Master Plan, which established that by the year 2000 water demand would exceed supply.

The aged network of pipes and leaks, lack of effective storm water and wastewater infrastructure and management also cause flooding, pollution, and contamination of water within Kingston; and high amounts of non-revenue water contribute to increased costs and water loss.

There is clearly a palpable urgency for investments in capital, collaboration, and discipline.

Since 2016, The Nature Conservancy Jamaica, with the support of the Coca Cola Foundation and other donors, has been coordinating feasibility studies and workshops with a view to advancing the idea of a Water Fund for Kingston to the over 930,000 people who live in Jamaica’s capital city.

The Nature Conservancy is underpinning its outreach to stakeholders with two symbolic logos to reflect the colour, vibrancy and energy of Kingston; and to locate the vitality of the Wag Water River Watershed and the concomitant upstream-downstream implications in the minds of both the residents of Kingston and the nearly 80,000 people who live in the watershed.

TOP PRIORITY

In our growing city, many things compete for the attention of the private sector, yet nothing can be now more pressing than water, because the commercial life and health of the city pivots on reliable, sustainable water supply.

In uncertain times in the world, water security must be a top priority for Kingston.

It is not beyond Jamaica’s capacity to achieve environmental water security in healthy rivers, restored aquifers, and ecosystems.

In the ‘land of wood and water’, Kingston must have domestic water security manifested in an optimal supply of water to households and world-class sanitation management systems and services.

Our globally recognised city must overcome the challenge of economic water security to achieve productive economies in industry, agriculture, and energy.

Urban water security is also attainable to secure a healthy, clean, vibrant, liveable, and water-sensitive city; and to build resilience to water-related natural disasters and adapt to the vagaries of climate change

According to UN Water, the inter-agency body that coordinates the efforts of United Nations entities and international organisations working on water and sanitation issues, the lack of water security is one of the greatest risks to global prosperity, and at least two-thirds of the world’s population will live in areas experiencing water stress

By investing now in a Water Fund for Kingston, Jamaica can stay ahead of the curve of these global predictions by becoming a global benchmark for water security.

Donna Blake is the country programme director of The Nature Conservancy, Jamaica. She has a passion for engaging and building collaboration among stakeholders to achieve balance between environmental stewardship and livelihoods. Send feedback to dblake@tnc.org.