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Water Crisis Worsens for 2016 as El Niño Strengthens

Published:Wednesday | June 24, 2015 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

It is projected that, come next year, the country could face worsening challenges with respect to water availability.

Jeffery Spooner, director of the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, noted that this is due to the strengthening of the El Niño period that the country is currently experiencing and is calling on the relevant authorities to put mitigating plans in place.

The El Niño climate phenomenon occurs when a vast pool of water in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean becomes abnormally warm.

"This year is an El Niño year, and it has strengthened quite quickly and more rapidly than what was projected. We never got the May/June rains, and based on projections, we might also not get the appreciable October/November rains (this year), so come next year, we will face significant challenges as it relates to water availability, especially during the dry season," Spooner said in an interview with The Gleaner on Wednesday.

"We are trying to at least alert the planners. During the El Niño year, we are going to have below-normal rainfall, and this is a major issue that the planners need to remember. It's not just the here and now, but a lot needs to be invested into how we prepare for the future, based on what has happened and what is expected to happen," he said.

The National Water Commission (NWC) is already reporting that two main water-storage facilities in the Corporate Area are now below 50 per cent of their capacity at a time when they are usually full.

The NWC's corporate public relations manager, Charles Buchanan, told The Gleaner recently that the Mona Reservoir was at 38 per cent while the Hermitage Dam is at 48 per cent.

The climate expert pointed out that there was still time to get the country on a sustainable path to mitigate against the adverse effects of climate change.

"It is not too late for planners to take action. They would be aware of the water projections and the availability in the dams now, so plans have to be implemented. Our job is to make the forecast so that the relevant authorities could put measures in place, and we have been doing so in a timely manner," he told The Gleaner.

"These climate variabilities are giving us a good opportunity to implement mechanisms to mitigate against the impacts. Even if we get some rainfall and we stay above severe drought conditions this year, the amount of water that will be available is where the challenge will be," he lamented.