Sat | Oct 31, 2020

PM touts Rio Cobre fix to water crisis

Published:Wednesday | May 15, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Amid the ongoing water crisis in sections of the Corporate Area, the Andrew Holness administration is to spend billions of dollars to increase storage capacity and provide greater security for the future.

A key project to be undertaken is the construction of a US$60-million (approximately J$7.7 billion) water-treatment plant at Rio Cobre in St Catherine.

Signalling that his administration understood the “great level of frustration”, Holness said the National Water Commission was ready to start construction of the Rio Cobre project, which will supply an additional 20 per cent of the current levels of water to Kingston and St Andrew as well as Portmore in St Catherine.

Holness, the prime minister, said the plant, which has been on the drawing board for 10 years, will be constructed under a public-private partnership, with the private entity being responsible to finance, design, construct and operate this plant, then sell the water to the National Water Commission at an agreed rate.

The 24-month project has already been approved by the Public Sector Investment Management Committee.

Holness said the private partner – a consortium consisting of a local bank and international construction company in water infrastructure development – will now have 45 days to complete negotiations with the Government, after which they will break ground and start construction.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Holness disclosed that an estimated US$160 million was needed to carry out major improvements to the water-distribution infrastructure in Kingston and St Andrew.

“But we will simply have to find the money to do it,” he insisted.

Three of the four systems that feed the two main storage facilities are operating below capacity, with the Corporate Area getting 59 per cent of the 63-million gallon daily demand. Up to yesterday, the Mona Reservoir was at 27.4 per cent of capacity and the Hermitage Dam at 33.1 per cent.

“The Mona Reservoir is empty. So we pray for rain. We need rain and I am very hopeful that we will have rain in the rainy season to come,” Holness said.

“We do not have many options to move water between the different systems because, as I have pointed out before, all our storage [facilities] are well below capacity and our ability to move water out of St Catherine is challenging because of the state of the pipes,” he added.

Some of the worst affected communities are located in the prime minister’s St Andrew West Central constituency, as well as the St Andrew East Central, represented by Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, and St Andrew Western, represented by the Opposition’s Anthony Hylton.