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Water misery in Sligoville

Published:Monday | December 30, 2019 | 1:16 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
A resident doing her laundry on Sunday in Mary Village, Sligoville, yesterday.
A resident doing her laundry on Sunday in Mary Village, Sligoville, yesterday.

As a busted main gushed water on to a section of the Sligoville main road in St Catherine yesterday, residents of nearby Mary Village expressed outrage at not having consistent supply for decades. It was the same scratched record that plays in many rural communities that suffer disproportionately to their urban counterparts.

The rural district is dotted with large black tanks and drums of all sizes, a grim picture of water woes that have been the source of frustration.

For residents of Mary Village, the daily updates of capacity at the Mona and Hermitage dams on the National Water Commission’s (NWC) website – on December 27, Hermitage was at 100 per cent and Mona at 97 per cent – mean nothing, and not only because they are not recipients of outflows from those reservoirs. Nor does the recent warning by Pearnel Charles Jr, the minister without portfolio, that drought conditions may continue in 2020.

For the hillside community, those statistics have long proven useless over decades of negligible water supply.

Laurence Powell, who has been living in the community for 17 years, told The Gleaner that he has been doomed to bathe in pans for what seems like forever.

He complained, too, that his motor vehicle has buckled under the pressure of burdensome deliveries of water buckets uphill.

“Dem can do better still. Mi haffi full up mi car with like 12-14 buckets and it pressuring pon di car,” a peeved Powell said yesterday.

“Dem” is the National Water Commission, the publicly owned majority supplier of water throughout Jamaica, whose chief communications spokesman, Charles Buchanan, could not be reached, as calls to his phone yesterday went unanswered.

Attempts to contact Natalie Neita, member of parliament for St Catherine North Central, were also unsuccessful.


“When we get water, we have to pinch it. It hectic. Life without water coming like a joke. Like how a holiday now, the house full, so you know water a run. When you bathe and have water left over in the pan, you have to use that flush di toilet,” Powell said.

He told The Gleaner that over the nearly two decades he has lived in Mary Village, he has had to depend on rainwater or trucks to supply the vital commodity. And it doesn’t come cheap. A truckload of water costs him about $15,000, multiples more than regular NWC rates.

When water does come trickling from their pipes, Powell said it is usually at nights and for extremely short periods. It has become, he said, a cruel game of hide and seek.

“Them send water weh night, but you have to be on alert to get any, because it doesn’t stay till morning. Before recently, we didn’t get any water for like two months straight. I do a little plumbing work, so I set the tank a way that it doesn’t run over because water will come and we don’t get a chance to fill anything,” he said.

Seventy-year-old Mumeta Henry told The Gleaner that she has come to accept her fate as “not so bad”, as she has several tanks from which she draws supplies to cook and complete other household functions. But like, Powell, if there is no rain for prolonged periods, she is forced to empty her pockets.

“It not bad, but we wouldn’t mind if we had it running all along,” she said.

The Meteorological Service of Jamaica is predicting that in 2020, the island will experience a similar drought to this year’s, which caused swathes of the country to wilt under high temperatures and little to no rainfall.

“The Met Service has already advised the minister [of local government, Desmond McKenzie] and myself that 2020 is likely ... to be similar to 2019. What it means is that as a country, as a nation, we have to be prepared for the worse,” said Charles Jr at a press conference at the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development’s offices recently.