Each year during this period (March to April) Jamaica experiences a water shortage. It has now become common place, especially in Kingston and its environs, to see scores of Jamaicans walking in search of water daily as the taps run dry or as water restrictions by the National Water Commission (NWC) intensifies. Our public institutions, in particularly our schools have been severely hampered and in some instances some schools have had to dismiss early due to the lack of water on their campuses. The Mona Reservoir was opened in the 1940,s, while the Hermitage Dam was opened in 1927. Both facilities were built to provide a reserve water supply for the corporate area of Kingston and St. Andrew. However, at the time those catchment areas were built they were able to adequately provide water for the population.  Since 1943, we have seen an explosion in the growth of the population not only for those two parishes but for Jamaica on a whole.

According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, the population of Kingston and Port Royal in 1943 was 103, 713. The same source states that the population of St. Andrew was 120, 067. As a country we have not invested in the necessary infrastructure to adequately provide water for the citizens, given the increase in the population which should have been expected. According to the 2011 census, the population of Kingston stood at 937, 700. Why then do we continue to have census taking if it is that the data collected is not being used to properly plan for the needs and development of the people?  

While we have had some water supply inventions since both dams were built more than sixty years ago clearly more can and should be done to ensure a reliable water supply for the citizens of this country. It is clear we lack proper planning and management in such an important resource.  What is interesting also in the fact that despite the water shortage and restriction water bills from the National Water Commission will likely be for the same amount or in some instances, there might be an increase.

Without any concrete plans in place, it’s very likely that come next year, we will go through this dry phase again. There can be no sustainable development without a reliable and consistent water supply.

Wayne Campbell

waykam@yahoo.com

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