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Letter of the Day: UWI should be innovative in fixing water-supply woes

Published:Saturday | November 21, 2015 | 11:00 AM

HUGH M. DUNBAR

Architect

hmdenergy@gmail.com

This is an open letter to Dr Carroll Edwards, director of marketing, recruitment and communications.

I note the crosstalk between the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, and the National Water Commission regarding the water pressure on campus. May I suggest the UWI undertake a construction programme to install a large elevated water tank for the campus.

This pressure tank will hold several thousand gallons, and will work as follows:

NWC water supplied to the campus will be pumped only into the elevated tank at a point that will be higher than most buildings. The water in the tank will then be gravity-fed to the buildings on campus.

The benefit of using this type of system is that water pressure will not need to be dependent on a remote pump, constantly on, to provide water pressure. In the case of the UWI, the pumps are large and far away, and providing water not only to the university.

Water supply in all university buildings over two floors should incorporate a water-storage tank on the building above the roof level. A much smaller pump with pressure tank can be used from this point if needed. This will provide a more efficient control of water supply and pressure.

Water on demand

When using this elevated water tank distribution system, the water used for irrigation should be separated from the potable water, so it will not be pumped up and then down to be used on the ground. Keep in mind that water use in buildings is variable over the entire day, so it will not be necessary to have pumps on all day, but only when the demand requires it.

In addition to the elevated water tank, a comprehensive water-collection and distribution system should be put in place. This, together with the rainwater-harvesting programme and air-conditioning condensate water collection will provide a more predictable and manageable water supply.

For storm water run-off management, all parking lots should be redeveloped with underground water-retention basins and grass paving structures.

The UWI, as an academic institution, can help itself and reduce its reliance on the NWC for a reliable water supply, and, more importantly, demonstrate the benefits of planning and use of available appropriate technology.

With climate change, highlighted by the recent drought experience, it will take a collective effort to better manage our resources. The entities with responsibility for providing reliable water supply and sewage have not been able to manage, because of population growth, and a lack of resources - academic and otherwise.

As a university, you can be the demonstration project for water management by setting the example for the country.

There are many engineers in Jamaica who are able to design such a system, and with your architectural teams, they should be able to develop a system that the UWI can use to enhance and encourage the best use of technology in Jamaica, reducing our reliance on the NWC.