Sat | Jun 25, 2016

Make rainwater harvesting mandatory - Fernandez, Buchanan

Published:Tuesday | February 19, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Catchment area of the Hope River on the Gordon Town main road shows low water levels. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Daviot Kelly, Staff Reporter

At least two major players in the management of water support a call for future residential developments to carry rainwater harvesting systems.

Following a resolution by Opposition Senator Dr Christopher Tufton, Basil Fernandez, managing director of the Water Resources Authority, and Charles Buchanan, corporate public relations manager at the National Water Commission (NWC), believe the idea is a good one. Fernandez felt a number of factors had to be considered.

"It may be something that we can add in the building code. One has to look, however, at the cost, in terms of the cost of housing," he said. "The roof also has to be made out of certain material." He noted that using fibre glass shingles, for instance, was not recommended as there is the belief that unhealthy particles may get into the water supply. He also felt using a water-based, non-toxic paint was better.

"While it (harvesting) is a good idea, it needs to be clearly thought out and a strategy put in place as to how it will operate," he said. "For example, what are going to be the conditions for the permit, for insisting on rainwater harvesting?" He also advised that the containers used be properly sanitised on a regular basis to prevent any disease. Fernandez noted that harvesting was widely practised within some sections of the region.

"I know that it is a prerequisite for any house that is to be built in the British Virgin Islands, the United States Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Cayman and other areas of the Caribbean," he said. Due to climate change, Fernandez noted, the predictions are for drier wet seasons, and wetter dry seasons.

"It means we may end up having more intense showers of shorter duration, but overall there should be less rainfall," he said. Rainwater harvesting would therefore avoid the expansion, at tremendous cost, of piped water supply.

Not ideal for drinking

"It would certainly reduce the demand for highly treated fresh water to be used for household chores like laundry, garden, car washing, washing of pavement and things like that." He noted, though, that this water would not be ideal for drinking.

Buchanan said the NWC feels there is a place for rainwater harvesting especially as there are a number of areas in Jamaica where it is not technically or economically feasible to provide consistent piped water.

"There is a place for greater involvement of households and private property owners in the storage of water for their own use," he said, noting the variation in availability of rain and ground water supply across the island. He said most of the rainfall takes place on the northern side of the island, in direct contrast to the south, which is often parched. Buchanan noted there were issues in terms of ensuring that where rainwater systems exist close to the NWC-supplied water, they do not improperly interface.

"You could possibly run the risk of the rainwater that they have on their property intruding into the piped supply," he explained. Of the current dry season, Buchanan said the Mona Reservoir is at 100 per cent capacity, achieved due to the speedy restoration of the Yallahs pipeline that was damaged after Hurricane Sandy.

"Unfortunately, the Hermitage Dam has been declining, and is averaging at about 80 per cent of capacity," he said. "So we have been forced to put night-time restrictions on that reservoir as a result."

In making the proposal, Tufton noted that small countries like Jamaica were particularly vulnerable to the impact of extreme weather patterns. He also opined that Jamaican governments were increasingly challenged to provide adequate water-related infrastructure to address annual drought conditions.

Water usage tips


While taking a shower, turn off pipes when not in use.

Turn off pipe when brushing teeth or shaving.

Place a bucket in the shower to collect water for plants.

Repair leaking faucets.

Use garbage bin to accumulate floss strings and Q-tips, do not flush them.

Install water-saving devices, such as faucet heads, aerators and pressure regulators.

Fill dishwasher and washing machine with the appropriate items before starting a wash cycle.

Do not defrost food under a running tap.

Utilise water from fish tank on houseplants.


Use a cistern to collect rainwater.

Investigate water-soaked areas, there could be leaks.

Water the lawn only when necessary and avoid hosing the pavement.

Plant drought-resistant trees that require less water (like poui and almond).

Do not let water run while washing vehicles.

Use shut-off nozzles on hoses and ensure that they are turned off after use.

Cover pools during the daytime, this will minimise evaporation.