Water situation precarious in Jamaica, Trinidad

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, March 31, 2010 – Trinidad and Tobago now only has a third of its usual water supply and Jamaica is also reporting that reserves have dwindled dangerously low, as drought conditions persist.

General Manager of Corporate Communications at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) in Trinidad and Tobago, Ellen Lewis, has reported that although the country started off the year with full reservoirs to supply the needs of its 1.3 million people, the majority of that has been used up.

“The country is now running on just about one third of its water supplies and still has to serve the needs of 1.3 million citizens,” she said. 

“The water shortage is already the worst to affect the Corporate Area in more than 20 years”.                     –National Water Commission

“If we don’t conserve water, if we don’t cut back on the demand from the customer end, we will face a difficult time come April,” Lewis added, noting that the remaining water supplies will last as long as consumption patterns change.

Lewis said WASA would therefore have to “shape demand to meet the supply”, hence the appeal to customers to conserve water.

In addition to urging residents of the twin-island republic not to waste the little of the resource that is left, WASA will amend its water scheduling and. As a result, some areas may receive water once per week. Only hospitals and schools are being assured of continued 24-hour supply.

Over in Jamaica, the National Water Commission (NWC) warned that the crisis has worsened and has urged Jamaicans to brace for further disruptions to their supply.

The NWC said in a statement issued yesterday that the already dire water supply situation affecting much of the Corporate Area of Kingston and the parish of St Andrew is threatening to get even worse as the continued absence of rain causes the inflows into the most critical water supply systems to dwindle even further.

“While some mainly northern areas of the country are unaffected by the drought, the water shortage is already the worst to affect the Corporate Area in more than 20 years,” it said. 

According to the NWC, the cumulative effect of the very limited rainfall in most southern parishes over several months has resulted in as much as a 90 percent decline in inflows from some rivers and springs.

“Each day, the Hope Water Supply System is now receiving over three million gallons of water less than what it needs, the Hermitage/Constant Spring Water Supply System is short by 12 million gallons and the Mona Water Supply System is short by eight million gallons of water. Because of these dwindling supplies and despite the scheduled water restrictions imposed, some areas have not and will not be able to receive piped water supply,” it said.

“NWC is appealing to the public to understand that, by its very nature, the very limited supplies of water available cannot and will not be equally available everywhere and that both planned and unplanned disruptions are very likely during this period.”

The Commission also reported that its attempts at drilling or rehabilitating additional wells as part of the drought mitigation programme have seen mixed results. 

While some wells are being introduced into the system, others previously considered have proven to be either contaminated, or are much more challenging to bring back into operation than anticipated.