Parchment calls for single water authority
Arguing that his South East St Elizabeth constituency has been paying the price for fragmented water policies, Member of Parliament Richard Parchment has called for the establishment of of a single water authority.
Parchment, a government backbencher, used the State of the Constituency Debate to call for an amalgamation of the National Water Commission (NWC) and the National Irrigation Commission (NIC).
"The water problem in South East St Elizabeth has reached crisis proportions" said the MP, who said that the constituency has had "an overreliance on rainwater harvesting and also decades of policy neglect with respect to domestic and irrigated water systems," Parchment said.
He told Parliament that only 15 per cent of the constituency has access to domestic water ,and there is no irrigation scheme serving the area, considered to have been a major producer of agricultural items.
"The ministry of water and the NWC have come under a lot of criticism under the current situation. The NWC and the ministry of water are only responsible for the production of about 30 per cent of the water produced in the island. The bulk of the water produced in Jamaica is produced by NIC," Parchment observed.
"For us to see improvement in water delivery, there must be an overarching water policy, and I would recommend that the ministry of water take under its wing, now, the NIC, and we deal with one water policy; instead of an NWC water policy; instead of an NIC water policy, instead of a rural water policy...," the government backbencher added.
The NIC is an agency of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries that was established 1986 and became operational in May 1987. The NIC's main objectives are to manage, operate, maintain, and expand existing and future irrigation schemes and systems as may be established by the Government.
The NWC, which falls under the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change, is the main institution responsible for all major water and sewerage operations, including the production of water collection, water treatment, and disposal of urban sewage.
The provision for rural water is shared between the NWC and the parish councils.
Basil Fernandez, head of the Water Resource Authority (WRA), said that the call from Parchment is not a bad one as a single agency would lead to greater efficiency.
"The NIC is the only agency that deals with water that is not in the ministry. It is in the ministry of agriculture, and we believe that it should be in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change," Fernandez told The Gleaner.
"It would make for better management, and if you have better management and a more integrated management, then you are going to have the impact being felt by everybody. You might even have conjunctive uses, where you don't just dig one well for NIC and one well for NWC, but you continue to dig one well that can serve both," he added.
The WRA is responsible for the management, protection, and controlled allocation and use of Jamaica's surface and underground water resources. Fernandez said there is now a single water policy, which is being upgraded.