Fri | Nov 27, 2020

Earth Today | Say it now: ‘Every drop of water is precious’

Published:Thursday | July 4, 2019 | 12:00 AM
CLARKE
TAYLOR
BROWN
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WITH RISING global temperatures that threaten reliable access to fresh water, Jamaicans need to adopt a new mantra for water security: ‘Every Drop Precious’.

This is the view of Managing Director for the Water Resources Authority (WRA), Peter Clarke, who said all stakeholders must be motivated to ‘reclaim, reuse, reduce, and reserve’ the vital natural resource.

“The more we can reserve that fresh water, the more we can put ourselves in a position to be resilient to climate change,” he told The Gleaner.

His statement comes following recent record high temperatures in Jamaica that got up to as much as three degrees higher than last year – the fourth-warmest year on record for the island since 1880.

CLIMATE DEPARTURE

There is also the grim reality of ‘climate departure’ with which to contend. A city or country is said to have reached climate departure when the average temperature of its coolest year is projected to be warmer than the average temperature of its hottest year, using 1860 to 2005 as the historical period; and then that becomes the new normal.

The Nature Journal in 2013 published an article titled ‘The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability’, which put climate departure for the planet at 2047, in the absence of changes to the rate of greenhouse gas emissions or what researchers term ‘business as usual’, and at 2069 under what it described as an “emissions stabilisation scenario”. For Jamaica, and in particular Kingston, climate departure was put at 2023 should it be business as usual, and 2028, if changes are made.

“We are approaching that event horizon; that point between you and the black hole. What this means for us is that with the prospect of our own localised climate being hotter, there will be increased demand for water,” Clarke said.

“And surface water, which evaporates quickly, will be even more prone to evaporate. So it is not unlikely to expect that at some time approaching that climate departure, our surface water rate of depletion would increase. That is the scenario that we really face. It is cause for concern by everybody; it should be cause for concern for everybody,” he added.

In addition to the steps currently taken by the WRA in relation to resource allocation, assessment and monitoring; and work being done by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation to finalise the new water policy, Clarke has encouraged citizens to take stock of their own habits.

Rainwater harvesting, he said, is a viable option for Jamaicans, who he encouraged to also take stock of their storage and use of the resource.

HEAT PLAN

At the same time, he has supported climate scientist Professor Michael Tylor and climate services specialist with the Meteorological Service, Glenroy Brown, in their call for a national heat plan.

“We have easily seen how it (heat) disrupts lives and the quality of life. It is not just feeling uncomfortable. The most vulnerable are affected – the elderly and the very young – and anybody who has to work outside. And, currently, we leave it up to people to say, ‘Well, we can’t spend this amount of hours outside’,” Taylor, co-lead for the Climate Studies Group Mona, told The Gleaner last week.

“We are still in school right now, and they (children) have physical education and so on. So when it gets too hot, who ensures that you have the cooling stations? What about the homeless? What about cooling shelters? All of these things should be covered under some kind of policy or plan that says, when certain thresholds are reached, this is what we must do. We need something for heat, in the same way that we have for other emergencies,” he said further.

Brown concurred.

“The prediction going into the future … is warmer nights, warmer days and less rainfall. If these are things that the scientists have evidence will happen, then we have to have the policies and programmes in place to deal with the most vulnerable in the society,” he noted.

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