Sun | Sep 23, 2018

Authorities considering flushing water to the south coast using huge pipelines

Published:Friday | July 10, 2015 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding
Basil Fernandez (left), head of the Water Resources Authority and Mark Barnett, acting president of the National Water Commission, address a Gleaner Editors Forum held at the company's Kingston offices last week.

With rainfall higher on the north of the island and demand for water lower, the authorities are contemplating flushing the precious commodity to the south coast with the use of huge pipelines.

For acting president of the National Water Commission (NWC) Mark Barnett and Basil Fernandez, managing director of the Water Resources Authority, desperate situations call for desperate measures.

"There has to be a major infrastructure investment to solve that (water) problem," said Barnett during a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum at the company's North Street, Kingston, office. "We have been tinkering with that idea in terms of the sustained reliability."

Barnett said a project of this magnitude would circumvent storage concerns in the Kingston metropolitan region.

"This is because there is a high yield all year round and very reliable," he asserted. "So it would be one of the better approaches to move the water from those parishes into the areas that it is needed most."

Barnett noted that the Hope River on the south coast is not a very reliable source in terms of its long-term supply at a particular level.

"That has been the case for a number of years," he said. "So it was never seen as a long-term solution to supply the Corporate Area."

He said that the Hermitage system that is fed by a number of rivers is subjected to drought whenever there is no rain because the type of geology there prevents a sustained flow of the commodity during dry periods.

As such, Barnett said the options for the south coast include importing water from other locations.

"That is really part of an existing plan that the NWC had developed," said Barnett.


Fernandez told the forum that pipelines could run parallel to the highway being constructed by China Harbour Engineering Company.

"There is tremendous demand along the south coast, but look at the rainfall," said Fernandez. "On the south coast, we are getting less than 15 millimetres, whereas on the north coast you can get anywhere between 3,000 to 5,000 millimetres."

Added Fernandez: "The demand on the north coast is much lower, so you do have a lot of water on the north coast, so we have the skewness in terms of the distribution of the resources."

He said that the master plan produced in 1990 is a guide for developing water resources and "we have been working with the National Irrigation Commission".

Fernandez, whose job it is to identify where the water resources are, told a Gleaner Editors' Forum that, as the largest user of water, the National Irrigation Commission, which falls under the ambit of the agriculture ministry, needs to come on board in fleshing out the plans.