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A very dry spell - Daily chores become burdensome as Jamaicans make long trek for rare commodity

Published:Thursday | February 11, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Laura Redpath, Senior Staff Reporter

A dry National Water Commission dam on Gordon Town Road in St Andrew. - Photos by Ian Allen/Photographer

WITH WATER drying up, St Andrew residents are finding it increasingly difficult to do basic things, such as bathing, washing clothes and flushing toilets.

The dam by the Mammee River consists mainly of silt and a few narrow tracks of trickling water. Gordon Town, Bedward Gardens and Tavern residents can be seen walking with three or four buckets, on their way to catch water. Water is now a scarce commodity.

A Tavern resident, who wished to remain unnamed, said she was finding it difficult to get through her daily chores.

"It's very rough," she said, sitting on the arm of a chair with her legs swinging back and forth.

"Imagine, I have to go to Mona with pan and bucket to catch a little water. There's no shower anymore."

The woman, who has been living in Tavern since 1964, said she would go up to a week without water. If lucky, she might randomly turn on the tap and see a trickle. However, trickles come without warning.

"It might stay for a couple of hours," she said.

A standpipe in Bedward Gardens supplies the community with water on a regular basis. Persons can get water as long as they show up with containers and patience, as the line can get really long.

"Them say we must get up at four in the morning to get water. Who going get up at four when we fi wake at six?" Jennifer Clarke, a Bedward Gardens resident, asked.

Plastic bottles, buckets and cooking oil bottles are some of the containers used by persons to get water. A woman wheeled in a barrow filled with buckets and Martha Aikman stood by the standpipe, waiting for her turn.

"The crisis is on but it come in like they don't care 'bout poor people," Aikman said.

Long queue for water

She estimated that it has been three months since her water struggle started. However, Clarke pitched in at the top of her voice, declaring this has been going on since October.

Kintyre resident, Annmarie Brown, said she is used to seeing 20 or more people lining up for water. If she sees a queue, she turns around and heads home, hoping to go back when there is no one there.

The Highlight View community is also experiencing water shortage difficulties. A resident there said the community has not had water since last Thursday.

A hose, set at an angle to allow water to run down into it, was perched inside a broken metal pipe, channelling water into a bucket a bit further down the hillside.

This bucket was used as the main source from which persons could pour water into other pans. A toddler, dressed in her nightgown, had her hands in one of the pans, washing clothes.

Dorothy Long, in Hope Pastures, was about to buy another tank.

"We're having a tough time," she said before explaining how she does her laundry.

"I use five pans and wash my whites then my greys then my browns and then my blacks," she said.

The water used for laundry is then used to flush her toilet. She also said it takes her three hours to fill a garbage bin with water.

Meanwhile, a busted pipe by a fire hydrant at a dead end in Long Mountain had a steady flow of water coming from it and running on to the road.

A resident of Tavern Drive on his way to catch water from a pipe in Bedward Gardens, St Andrew.

The only pipe in the Bedward Gardens community with water.