My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How NWC’s Water Conservation in Drought 2016 means Rainwater Harvesting with Digital Meters


Thursday, February 11, 2016

How NWC’s Water Conservation in Drought 2016 means Rainwater Harvesting with Digital Meters

“It’s really a monitoring approach and being proactive in our effort to ensure that our supplies during the dry period is efficiently utilised. What we have been doing is to constantly assess our inflows into our reservoirs. However, once the rain ceases, the inflow will start to show a consistent decline in levels and for that reason, we are matching our inflows with what we produce”

President of the NWC, Mark Barnett commenting on the conservation strategies as Drought 2016 begins

Folks, it's like I look into a crystal ball and saw the future had more drought in 2016, the Year of the Monkey.

Its drought time again, with the NWC (National Water Commission) advising Jamaicans to conserve as they begin nightly water lock-offs as reported in the article “Country Enters Dry Season – Jamaicans Urged to Conserve Water”, published Tuesday, January 19, 2016 by O. Rodger Hutchinson, The Jamaica Information Service.   

This is despite the two Reservoirs in St. Andrew that serve the Kingston and Metropolitan area being full to capacity:

1.      Mona
2.      Hermitage

The conservation strategies began in December 2015 and will run until April 2016 between the hours of 11:00 pm and 4:00 am. President of the NWC, Mark Barnett is encouraging kingstonians and Jamaicans across the island to begin practicing water conservation, quote: “We definitely need to go back to the conservation measures that were practised during the drought period”.

Customers of the NWC will experience low water pressure and even lock-offs during this period of time. I know this is real as I’m experiencing it right now as of writing this article as the water goes away at 11:00 pm and comes back at 4:00 am.

But what's even more troubling to me is that this water lock-off is also affecting sub­urban and rural residents who are not supplied by the Mona and Hermitage Dams. They too, in their parishes in Jamaica, are also experiencing water lock-offs.

More importantly, we'll be looking at increased prices for Vegetables and fruits and continued shortages as I'd predicted in my blog article entitled “How the Drought of 2015 means higher prices for Jamaican Christmas 2015 and Easter 2016”.
Not to mention the Zika Virus spreading like wildfire with Portmore being ground zero as noted in my blog article entitled “How Zika Virus confirmed in Portmore, St. Catherine will spread throught Jamaica”.
Especially as so many sporting events are planned to give the Aedes Aegypti mosquito the chance to infect more people as predicted in my blog article entitled “How Jamaica's February 2016 Sports Calendar will help spread the Zika Virus”. 

But why have water lock-offs at night?

NWC’s Water Conservation Strategies – Why Water has to be turned off at Nights

According to the President of the NWC, Mark Barnett, the pressure on the pipes increases.

This is due to the fact that during the night, most people are asleep even as the water pumps are continuously pumping water. With no taps turned on to release the pressure building up, it backs up down the line into the main pipes.

The result is old pipes bursting as was dramatically displayed on Wednesday September 24th 2015 when the NWC's Stanton Terrace Main pipe burst in the Hidden Village of Swallowfield as noted in my blog article entitled “Water Wastage at MICO - How Waste Water Recycling and Rainwater Harvesting benefits Agriculture”.

Most Jamaicans may not realize this, but 2015 has gone down as the hottest year according to NOAA and NASA scientists in the article “2015 is warmest year on record, NOAA and NASA say”, published January 20, 2016 By Brandon Miller, CNN. Scope out this Drought Map of Jamaica in June 2015 to get an idea of how hot it was!

During this pressure build-up, pipes with cracks or imperfections begin to leak, as the pressure has nowhere to go. It is these hidden leaks that have people like me worried as the NWC plans to implement Digital Water Meters, which will result in customer receiving extremely high water bills as predicted in my blog article entitled “Why NWC Digital Water Meters means Water Rate Increase coming in 2016”.

So it seems that water lock-off will not only be implemented due to drought, but it might also be implemented even when the Digital Meters are being installed.

Eventually, the NWC will have to replace all of those old leaking pipes, pending the results of a JA$4.9 billion five-year Non-Revenue Water Reduction Co-Management Project in Kingston and St. Andrew being done by Israeli-based company, Miya as reported in the article “Gov’t Embarks on Project to Reduce Water Loss”, published July 9, 2015 By Alecia Smith-Edwards, The Jamaica Information Service.

So until then what are Jamaicans to do?

NWC urges Water Conservation - Minister Pickergill plans to make Jamaicans pay for Rainwater Harvesting

According to the NWC, Water conservation is key. This means:

1.      Watering gardens with used water
2.      Checking toilets for leaks
3.      Reducing water usage while taking a shower
4.      Using a hard broom to sweep driveways, sidewalks, gutters, and steps, instead of washing them
5.      Preventing children from playing with taps, hoses and sprinklers
6.      Washing cars using a bucket of water and a rag and not a running hose

But there is a need to increase our water supply. One suggestion that I made was to process sewage water into potable water, thereby completing the loop of water recycling that Nature does on its own as argued in my blog article entitled “Water Wastage at MICO - How Waste Water Recycling and Rainwater Harvesting benefits Agriculture”.

However, the Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, is more focused on Rainwater harvesting, with legislation being crafted to make it possible to bill people for harvesting Rainwater as predicted in my blog article entitled “How Rainwater Harvesting Bill means Rainwater Net Billing to end NWC's Water monopoly”.

Already, they've invested some JA$100 million to a contractor named the Rural Water Supply Limited to refurbish some 112 catchment tanks under their Catchment Tank Rehabilitation and Rainwater Harvesting Programme to quote Minister Pickersgill: “We have embraced rainwater harvesting as an integral part of our water security efforts, now and for the future. Under the Catchment Tank Rehabilitation and Rainwater Harvesting Programme, the Rural Water Supply Limited has refurbished 112 catchment tanks at a cost of over $100 million, since the start of the programme in 2012”.

The areas to benefit from Rainwater Harvesting coves a wide swath of Jamaica, based on the JA$41 million spent on rehabilitating some 35 catchment tanks during the 2014-2015 financial year. These 35 catchment tanks serve 35,000 people in the following parishes:

1.      Clarendon
2.      Manchester
3.      St Ann
4.      St Elizabeth
5.      Westmoreland

So how has this Catchment Tank Rehabilitation and Rainwater Harvesting Programme been benefitting these residents thus far?

Rainwater Harvesting Bill before Parliament – Deregulation and competition in the Supply of Water

Already resident are singing praises about the improvements in their water supply since the Drought of 2015 as noted by General Manager for Engineering at RWSL (Rural Water Supply Limited), Douglas Wilson, quote: “The people are ecstatic and are very happy. We were able to make a significant impact in some of those drought stricken areas of St Elizabeth, Westmoreland, Clarendon and other parishes”. 

Meanwhile, Minister Pickersgill emphasizes the need for residents to adopt water conservation practices to protect the country’s water safety.

He's also pinning his hopes on Rainwater Harvesting as the future supply of Jamaica's Water needs, quote: “These catchment tanks are benefitting some 35,000 people in several parishes. For the 2014­2015 financial year alone, a total of $41 million was expended to rehabilitate 35 catchment tanks in Manchester, St Elizabeth, St Ann, Clarendon, and Westmoreland. I firmly believe that rainwater harvesting is the route that we must take, in order to ensure our water security, particularly in the face of climate change impacts, which will intensify drought conditions”.

As soon as the RSWL's  Catchment Tank Rehabilitation and Rainwater Harvesting Programme, which is really a Water Network, is complete, expect Digital Water Meters to be rolled out to bill you for the use of Rainwater.

Hopefully, provisions will be placed into the Rainwater Harvesting Bill as well as the amendments to the Country Planning act as well as the Building Act to make Personal Rainwater Harvesting systems as predicted in my blog article entitled “How Rainwater Harvesting Bill means Rainwater Net Billing to end NWC's Water monopoly”.

This would pave the way for the deregulation of the Water System in Jamaica and introduce competition from Rainwater Harvesting Contractors and Entrepreneurs and even moisture Harvesting from moisture farms in the future. So expect the Rainwater Harvesting Bill and water increases, even before the Israeli-based company, Miya has found all the leaks in the current system over the next five (5) years.

So like it or not, these improvement in water supply, including Rainwater Harvesting, come at a cost to the taxpayer and herald Water Rate Increase by the end of 2016. 

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