Tue | Sep 27, 2022

Letter of the Day | Fix those tanks, now

Published:Thursday | July 25, 2019 | 12:00 AM


As far back as I can remember, one of the dominant news items in the papers any time between February and July – and often beyond – is the question of water shortage and daily lock-offs. This comes together with the threat of going to jail for using too much water, although it comes through the meter and has to be paid for. The population and industrialization of Kingston and its environs have developed much faster than can be supplied, in addition to leaky transmission pipes and other problems.

As a boy growing up in Manchester, one could predict with some amount of certainty that the rains would start by late April, peaking in October, and tapering off towards the end of the year. This does not seem to be the case today. We seem not to have much rain via convection anymore, and if a tropical system does not pass close enough to bring rain, there will be drought. Climate change, scientists say, is to blame. A few years ago, who would ever believe that Portland and St Mary could experience drought conditions. The older residents of Manchester most likely remember the days when a tank would be constructed simultaneously with the house and fed with harvested rainwater from the roof.

With the coming of piped water, many of those tanks went into disrepair. The colonial government also built reservoirs, nicknamed parish tanks, in many districts harvesting rainwater. These, too, have often been neglected by the various municipal corperations. The signs point to a dry year, and there is certain to be problems for the dry season in the coming year. Those tanks, public or private, should be fixed urgently to receive the rains which may come during the rest of the present year. Although October is supposed to be a rainy month, there have been a few dry ones in recent years.


Some years ago, there was a government-encouraged tank-building scheme, but like many other programmes in Jamaica, this was discontinued for some unknown reason. In some Caribbean countries such as Tortola, I am told that a tank has to be a part of every new house which is constructed.

Lending agencies could consider this when giving mortgages, since this could pay for itself in a relatively short period as there is no water bill to pay. Schools in Manchester were built with tanks, as a part of their structure, since there was no piped water to supply them.

If sufficient rain does not fall for the rest of the year, the aquifers that supply water may not have enough to last through a prolonged drought. Much of the rainfall now runs to the sea instead of charging the aquifers because of the increasingly paved areas from construction projects, deforestation and improper cultivation of hillside lands, negatively affecting once-flowing and reliable springs.

What we need to do, instead of saving for the rainy day; is to use the rainy days to save for the dry days ahead.

Trevor Samuels