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The Realities of Water Access in Jamaica

NWC’s President Mark Barnett - Panel Discussion on CVMTV

What is a drought?

Drought is generally defined as a long period – months or even years - of below normal, little or no rain. But there are also some more precise definitions for specific types of drought conditions. These differing definitions include:

  1. Agricultural drought – a period when soil moisture is inadequate to meet the demands for crops to initiate and sustain plant growth.
  2. Hydrological drought – period of below average or below normal stream-flow and/or depleted reservoir storage.
  3. Meteorological drought – a period of well-below normal precipitation (rainfall) that spans from a few months to a few years.
  4. There are also different ways of measuring drought but all of them have negative implications for potable water systems.
  5. While drought is often used inter-changeably with dry season, the two are not necessarily the same. Dry seasons, when they occur as expected and to the degree expected, are not droughts. Similarly, rain may indeed fall during a wet season, but if it is below 60% of what was expected based on historical trends, you may indeed have a drought in the middle of a supposed wet season. In the case of Jamaica, our expected dry season runs from December to April and again in July.
  6. Most water supply systems around the world are vulnerable to drought conditions to varying degrees. Sections of Jamaica are currently experiencing drought conditions using any or all of the above definitions.
What causes droughts?

Droughts are caused by irregularities in weather patterns (including climate change, global warming, El Nino and other weather phenomena) that result in insufficient or unpredictable rainfall. Localized droughts may also be exacerbated by poor environmental and development practices including issues like de-forestation, watershed degradation and over-use or pollution of water sources.

Drought Impact on NWC's Water Supply

What can customers and individuals do?

In this severe shortage of water affecting sections of the country, we all need to adjust and make do with less water. Voluntary, personal conservation can go a far way in both saving money and saving water for use another day or for use by others in need. Studies show that water use in an average household can be reduced by 30% by simply practicing good conservation measures without any significant inconvenience.

pipe dripping

Conserve water by:

  1. A. Reducing water use wherever possible and finding alternatives to water-intensive activities. For example, turn off all taps as soon as the water isn’t being used and don’t use the toilet to dispose of things that should be in a wastebasket, but do use disposables to eliminate the need to wash dishes.
  2. B.Repairing all leaks – whether they are a nuisance or not or whether they appear to waste a lot of water or not. Even small leaks waste a lot of water over time and various studies show that about 10% of water in homes is wasted due to leaks.
  3. C.Re-use or re-cycle water whenever possible. For example, re-use the water used to wash plates or clothes to water plants, wash cars or water lawns.
  4. D.Re-place water wasting devices such a 7- and 5-gallons per flush toilets or gushing showerheads with water-saving devices such as flow restrictors and aerators.
  5. E.Also, do not leave taps turned on even when there is no water in the pipes as when water returns you may be unaware and the pipe would be left running.

Find more ways to conserve water Conservation Methods