Water woes continue

We have now been illuminated as to the National Water Commission‘s strategy for dealing with the drought. NWC chair Mark Barnett told a reporter that “the Lord will not give us more than we can bear.”

Hopefully, divine intervention will occur soon, because it looks like the drought is not about to let up anytime soon. Due to the El Nino phenomenon, which is warming the Pacific, we will continue to experience low rainfall levels for this region. Indeed, we have not had substantial rain for weeks upon weeks. It seems to thunder every afternoon, but not a whole lot happens. And the reservoirs are drying up. For the Kingston area, one major dam is at 20 per cent, while another rests at 46 per cent.

So we have even more water restrictions. My area now gets water two times a week, some regions only once a week. Think about the health implications. Less hand-washing. More time to do simple tasks like washing the dishes, bathing oneself, general household chores. As fellow blogger Emma pointed out, that takes a toll on people’s time, resulting in lateness all around, which in turn affects the economy. Of course, the health concerns should be top of mind for authorities.

However, we don’t hear much from them. The NWC finally issued a schedule for the Kingston area, but as usual, it raised more questions than answers.

What are the boundaries for each area? Why not include a map to be more clear? Does this mean the communities listed get water on the dates indicated? Why not give some background in the press release? Why not give an idea of a strategy or how long this will last? Alternative methods of dealing with the drought?
The other day, I was collecting water on one of the days we had it. I filled a white bowl and immediately noticed red-colored sediment at the bottom. Another day, I noticed that the water appeared yellow in the five-gallon jugs in which I collected it, and sometimes, it comes out dark grey when you first run it after several days off. Obviously, it would not be advisable to drink it. But why no advisory or information from officials? At the very least, why not warn people to boil for several minutes or not drink at all.
Which brings up another issue: the cost of buying bottled water or a tank filled with water trucked in. Some people cannot afford to do this. What of them?
Perhaps Jamaicans are so accustomed to this, they are not phased. But it will be a problem when a major health outbreak occurs. I always think about this when I go into a restaurant these days. The toilets are not functional, so how do the staff have enough water to maintain proper hygiene?
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller last Sunday, at the PNP rally, promised major investments in water infrastructure. Here is her address, taken from the official Facebook page:
My fellow Jamaicans,

An area of real concern is the effects of the current drought.
Several areas in the country remain challenged despite the large investments in water distribution.
Over the last three years, the NWC has invested more than 20-billion-dollars in some 100 capital projects island-wide.
In response to the current drought, the NWC has:

• Reactivated dormant wells to add six million gallons of water per day.
• We will immediately purchase fifteen new water trucks for drought mitigation efforts. This will cost One-Hundred-and-Eighty-Million-Dollars.
• At the same time we are making an investment of Three-Hundred-Million-Dollars in water distribution improvements for areas worst affected by the drought.
• We will be investing One Hundred and Twenty-Million-US-Dollars in the long term to bring water into Kingston Metropolitan Area.

These actions are being undertaken by the Government to ensure that our people have consistent and reliable access to water.
Climate change has removed the factor of predictability for our lives and is cause for inconvenience. 
As a people, as a government it cannot be business as usual. 
This is why we have taken these important steps to address the challenges of water.

Those investments sound sturdy. But what about now? Citizens continue to suffer, in more ways than one.

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