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New mindset needed at NWC

Published:Wednesday | January 27, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Dennie Quill, Contributor

Late last year, the National Water Commission (NWC) made some dramatic announcements about the reduced levels of water supply to the nation's capital. Graphic news photos of the minister of water walking on parched concrete inside a depleted Mona Reservoir demonstrated the seriousness of the situation. It was obvious that communities served by the Mona Reservoir would experience rationing of this vital resource. And many braced themselves for what has become an annual ritual where for long periods of day and night, the taps are dry.

Many householders took these warnings to heart and began instituting conservation measures to reduce their personal water use. For example, I know persons who went out and bought thermoses in order to fill them with boiling water and eliminate the need to put the kettle on for each cup of tea or coffee. Many others started paying attention to water-saving tips, such as turning off the tap when brushing one's teeth or shaving or taking showers instead of baths.

Shabby work

Round about the time the NWC made its announcement, I observed water gushing from a broken main in my community. The leak occurred close to a new construction site and the NWC crew was called in and did some work at the site. The water is no longer gushing, but a huge pool of water has settled at the site, which suggests a broken main. Not even a hundred yards down the road another leak occurred round about the same time.

The NWC crew was again summoned and they brought in heavy-duty equipment and dug up a section of the road. They contained the leak, but they did not fix the problem. They left their calling card in the form of a yellow 'caution' tape wrapped clumsily around a few pieces of stick which were left in the road. Two problems have resulted from this intervention - the road has developed potholes as the water continues to eat away at the surface, and the section that is cordoned off is at the brow of a hill, presenting a clear-and-present danger to users of the road. Why, after more than a month, has the NWC not seen it fit to complete the work they have started?

We are told that a leaking faucet can waste as much as 100 gallons of water a day. Is there anyone at the NWC calculating how many gallons of water are going to waste at just these two sites? Does the NWC have a leak-detection unit? Given the above examples, one wonders where is the sense of urgency within the NWC to lead the charge in conserving water. And should householders simply ignore the NWC and continue to water their lawns and wash their cars?

New mindset needed

Water is the resource we need, more than any other, and year after year we experience drought condi-tions, and we have seen the deleterious effects to agricultural and domestic life when there is not enough rainfall in catchment areas. Entire farms have been ruined because of lack of water.

Because of its own ineptitude, the NWC has not been able to stir in the public the kind of commitment to water conservation which is necessary in this 21st century.

The NWC badly needs a new mindset which recognises that there has to be an aggressive effort to conserve water, not just during periods of drought but throughout all seasons. For example, the NWC should be providing consultants to advise homeowners about setting up drip irrigation for their home gardens and/or to advice on drilling wells in areas where this is possible. I go further, the NWC should be seeking to institute a conservation rate to reward customers who make an effort to use less water and to encourage others to join in that effort. it is the NWC who has pointed out on its website that "the same water that existed on Earth billions of years ago still exists today".

The least communities should expect of the NWC is that it promotes decisive action by detecting and fixing leaks and leaving the road surface in an acceptable condition after it has completed its work.

Dennie Quill is a veteran journalist. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.