Mon | Sep 20, 2021

‘Don’t ignore rainwater harvesting as a water source’ – NWC president

Published:Monday | September 21, 2020 | 12:10 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Mark Barnett
Mark Barnett


Mark Barnett, the president of the National Water Commission (NWC), believes that Jamaicans living in rural areas must be willing to use traditional methods of sourcing water, as it is not economically possible to expand water-piping infrastructures into every community and for every household.

Barnett made the point while addressing Thursday’s virtual media launch of The University of the West Indies Mona Western Jamaica Campus’ (UWI Mona-WJC) first Caribbean Sustainable Cities Conference. The conference will be held at the Hilton Rose Hall Hotel in St James from November 4 to 6 under the theme ‘Go Green, Go Safe, Go Smart.’

“The issue that you have to contend with is, are people sufficiently accepting that rainwater is a water source other than water coming through the pipe? What I have found in recent years is that when people are exposed to greater urbanisation practices, they no longer wish to use those sources of water as their primary sources,” said Barnett.

Water accessibility

“When we talk about water and access for communities, we cannot ignore in any way, shape or form rain harvesting at the household level. It is something that needs to be promoted, and it is something that is enshrined in the current water sector policy,” Barnett added.

Despite water restrictions being lifted following recent heavy rains, residents of some rural communities are still reporting a lack of the commodity, at a time when regular handwashing is being encouraged to minimise the spread of the coronavirus.

But the NWC president noted that expanding the water utility service will not be financially possible for all communities based on their layout.

“While it is the intention to advance and expand the utility service coverage, it is not going to be economically or financially possible for all communities in Jamaica, and we just need to accept that reality. With somebody who lives five miles away from a cluster of houses, for that single person to get that service, it is just not economical,” said Barnett. “It is just a matter of what is their available infrastructure in those communities, and invariably a lot of it is deficient.”

In the meantime, UWI Mona-WJC campus director Dr Patrick Prendergast said that a timetable cannot be placed on the process of development in any location.

“Development is a process of constant change. What we want to do is move to a stage where we are not constantly behind or playing catch-up,” said Prendergast. “So what we have to do is broadly say what would make Montego Bay or Kingston a city on the path to sustainability.”