Sat | Nov 27, 2021

Businessman prepared to breach restrictions to ensure survival

Published:Friday | July 4, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Richard Gayle pours a generous helping of water on watermelons in a field cultivated by Clive Ebanks in Flagaman, St Elizabeth, yesterday in a fervent effort to save the crop as farmers in the parish grapple with a crippling drought, the impact of which has been made worse by strong, dry winds they claim have been drying out their fields faster than usual. For this reason, they have to be watering the crops at shorter intervals, using more water but achieving less-than-desirable results and significantly increasing input costs.
This aerial photo taken yesterday shows the Mona reservoir at 40 per cent capacity. Gladstone Taylor/Photographer
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Martin Baxter and Kimesha Anderson, Gleaner Writers

The roar from the engine of a water-pressure hose loudens as yet another car rolls into a busy St Andrew car wash. It is Thursday and the mid-afternoon sun still showed no signs of repenting for its part in producing the hottest May ever recorded.

Soap is hastily splashed on to windscreens and car bonnets by a row of washers, as they attempt to make a few dollars before the water prohibition order, announced in Parliament on Wednesday, takes effect this weekend.

"I guess my guys will have to go rob and steal to feed their families when they lock off the water," said one car wash operator, adding that the business was the main source of income for his 14-member workforce.

While admitting that in the long term, the water-prohibition order would cause his business to fail, the operator defiantly added that he would be prepared to incur the daily $1,000 fine to ensure his staff, and indeed their families, could survive.

CALL FOR NEW DAMS

"Right about now, I'm going to look a new work," said one car washer, who was elbow-deep in soapsuds, quarrelling that Jamaicans needed to find new ways to conserve water and the Government needed to spend money on building new dams.

Building new dams is not an option according to Water Minister Robert Pickersgill, but refurbishing and desilting old ones was.

Speaking to journalists on a tour of Mona reservoir yesterday morning, the minister announced new plans to desilt the stricken Hermitage Dam in St Andrew, that currently only operates at 37 per cent capacity due to silt build-up.

"I think the criticism that we have procrastinated about desilting has some merit, however, the decision has been taken. I know there are at least two big companies that say they can do it and part of the problem is where we would store the silt. But the good news is silt is a valuable sought after resource," explained Pickersgill, who said that the contract was to be awarded for work to start within the month.

Pickersgill said the two main challenges facing the National Water Commission (NWC) are the soaring energy costs involved in treating water and lost revenue on water due to theft and leakage.

The Mona reservoir can hold a maximum of 700 million gallons of water, but is currently 40 per cent full, with 280 million gallons. Production at the Mona Treatment Plant is operating at a reduced capacity of nearly 38 per cent at 10 million gallons daily, six million less than usual.

"The situation is very serious at the moment. With no in-flows from the Yallahs pipeline, there needs to be a lot of regulation and water restrictions within the KSA (Kingston and St Andrew) area," explained the NWC's regional water supply production manager, Kayon Hinds.