Jamaica Imposes Strict Water Restrictions As Drought Continues

KINGSTON, July 10 (BERNAMA-NNN- AGENCIES) -- Water consumption beyond basic needs such as drinking, cooking, washing, bathing and sanitation has been banned in Jamaica as of Wednesday amid severe drought, according to a government notice.

Watering gardens, grounds and farms, refilling tanks, ponds, or swimming pools, washing vehicles with a hose, and washing roadways, pavements, paths or garages are among the practices that could now result in a prison term under the new regulations.

Those who breach the ban are subject to punishments from fines to imprisonment of up to 30 days.

Robert Pickersgill, minister of water, land, environment and climate change, last week told the parliament, "The amount of rainfall we received island-wide fell below the 30-year average for what is normal at this time of year, and was not enough to make up the deficit of last dry season." "Storage levels at the two largest reservoirs, the Hermitage Dam and the Mona Reservoir, are at 83 percent and 37 percent respectively, and are falling daily," he said.

Some emergency measures, including trucking water to the most affected areas, have also been taken to ensure basic water supply, the minister added.

With no substantial amount of rainfall projected for the rest of the year, Jamaica is headed for critical drought conditions.

According to projections from the Meteorological Service, from July to September, the parishes of Manchester, Clarendon, St Thomas, Portland and St Mary will be at greater risk for extreme drought.

And with the below-average rainfall expected to continue, Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine and Clarendon are expected to be the worst-affected parishes for the July to December period.

"With respect to rainfall prediction and the availability of water, conditions are looking pretty dismal for the country. At this stage, conditions seem to be pointing that things will become worse before they get better," Jeffery Spooner, director of the Meteorological Service, told The Gleaner yesterday.

Jamaica is among several Caribbean countries experiencing critical drought conditions because of climate change as well as the El Nino climate phenomenon that occurs when a vast pool of water in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean becomes abnormally warm. These conditions prevent the development of any storm or hurricane.

These conditions lead to the Caribbean being warmer and drier, experiencing below-normal rainfall.

"With the entrenchment of the El Nino phenomenon, the projection is for below-normal rainfall activities for this year, especially during the months of October and November, when we normally expect to get an appreciable amount of rainfall," Spooner stated.

Noting that a drought condition is when there is below 60 per cent of normal rainfall over a consecutive eight-week period, he said so far, January and May were the only two months that the country had above-normal rainfall.

"Although we are in the dry period now, what has been happening is that even from a few months ago we have not been getting any significant amount of rainfall, so the projection is that some parishes are expected to fall into drought conditions soon and this will continue until we get an appreciable amount of rainfall, which is not expected anytime soon because of the El Nino system," the director emphasised.

Spooner urged, "We definitely have to do all we can to conserve what little water we have now in order for us to properly manage the resources that we have available in a sustainable way. However, for a longer-term solution, rainwater harvesting should be a part of our way forward." Last week, Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill announced a number of emergency water-management measures that are now in effect until Jamaica's water reserve is back to normal levels.

The country is urged to continue to practise vigilant water management and conservation, as it weathers this drought crisis. Under the ministry and the National Water Commission, a public education programme is under way to outline tips and plans.

In the meantime, the National Drought Management Committee is executing a number of actions, including programmes to upgrade and rehabilitate existing storage tanks across the island. Water is also being trucked to the worst affected sections of the island.

During 2009-2010, Jamaica was affected by severe drought conditions because of the El Nino phenomenon.


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