Jamaicans are being warned to brace for dry and drought stricken summer months, as the experts from the national Meteorological Service are projecting less rainfall for the next three months.
The experts say the traditionally wet parish of Portland is expected to be the most affected in the upcoming drier months. Matthew Samuda, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, in providing an update on the ongoing drought conditions impacting the island, explained that although Jamaica has experienced some increased rainfall in recent weeks, it is not evenly distributed or sufficient to provide respite for affected communities.
Minister Samuda told the Senate last Friday (May 26) that the current dry period has been cumulatively dryer than any other period in recorded history, noting that the eastern end of the island has been significantly impacted by the shift in rainfall patterns.
He said, “during the six-month period October to March, the number of parishes experiencing drought conditions grew steadily from three in November to 11 in February, but then stabilised at approximately six in March.”
Portland to be hardest-hit parish
Given that the projections indicate less rainfall for the next three months Senator Samuda commented, “looking at specific parishes for the May to July 2023 period, it suggests that most of the country will continue to experience below-normal rainfall. However, the MET Service has projected that Portland is likely to be the most impacted, followed by other Eastern and East Central parishes.”
As such more stringent water conservation measures have been imposed by the National Water Commission (NWC), in light of the ongoing drought affecting sections of the island and reduced water inflows to catchment facilities. One such measure is the water Prohibition Notice, which took effect last Friday May 26 and will remain in effect until further notice.
Under the Notice, the NWC prohibits the use of water supplied by or obtained through its pipes for watering of gardens, lawns, grounds and farms; refilling or supplying of ponds, or swimming pools and/or for use other than normal domestic services, such as drinking, cooking, washing, bathing and sanitation; washing of vehicles by use of a hose; watering or washing roadways, pavements, paths, garages or out rooms, and any purpose which may require the use of a considerable or excessive quantity of water.
Persons, who breach the Notice may be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction before a Resident Magistrate to a fine and in default of payment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 30 days. The Notice also applies to persons who cause or give permission to others to break the law.
Severe low water pressure or interruptions
Minister Samuda observed that although the NWC has implemented various operating strategies to minimise the negative effect of the reduction from the source since the start of 2023, some customers served by the worse affected systems are already experiencing severe low water pressure or interruptions in their piped water supply.
The impacted systems in the east Kingston and St Andrew Metropolitan Area are the Hermitage Dam and the Mona Reservoir, which are currently at 37 per cent and 33 per cent in storage, respectively.
He said the Seaview Water Treatment Plant, which is served by lines out of St. Catherine, is approximately 73 per cent. Senator Samuda pointed out that other affected systems have also been negatively and severely affected by the reduced rainfall.
In the meantime, the Government continues to implement measures to respond to the crisis as well as improve resilience. Some of these include the allocation of J$110 million to support farmers, J$130 million for trucking of potable water, the purchase of black tanks for households to facilitate orderly trucking of water, improving the fleet of water trucks, alternate distribution, increase in valving and other regulations, reactivation of wells, increased allocation for trucking through municipal corporations, among others.