Jamaicaholics Message Board

Re: Water Supply Problems
In Response To: Water Supply Problems ()

Sharleen, this is a really interesting thread you started.

This is the water situation in the town where I live:

Every year in tourist season, the population of less than 1,000 more than doubles. Shortly after “they” arrive, the water supply dries up. The local government has put some regulations to combat this. In recent years in tourist season, we are not allowed to water our lawns or even our vegetable gardens. Also no car washing.

Of course, nobody actually enforces these laws. The “rich outsiders” with exotic houses top up their swimming pools under cover of darkness, and make their low-paid gardeners water their fancy flowerbeds.

Last tourist season, our local government spent over $300,000 US to truck in water to keep the water reservoir filled for just 6 weeks. Divide that evenly between less than 1,000 ratepayers, and you can imagine why the normal residents, the ones without pools and gardeners but who may be trying to grow some food, got really pissed.

The local paper uses words like “boondoogle” and blames local businesses (and main employers of locals) for not paying their “fair share” or paying off politicians. Anxious householders have asked for a total ban on development until more water is “found”.

Sound vaguely familiar?

But I’m not talking about Jamaica. This is the situation where I live in southern Quebec, a few miles from the Vermont border, at the top of the Appalachians. (not all that far from you, Sharleen). Historically we have abundant and clean water – just like Jamaica.

And like the case in Negril and the West End, the neighbors farther downstream from this so-called abundant source of water blame the ones closer to the “water supply” for mismanaging it or somehow wrecking it.

The truth is much more difficult to accept. In my part of the world, climate change has meant that we’re getting only HALF the rainfall we used to get, and when it falls, it falls in torrents and runs off the soil without time to soak in and recharge the groundwater. Climate projections tell us this phenomenon is going to get worse.

In my yard, I’ve been watching the impacts of this. Certain species of trees are dying from water stress caused by such irregular water supply. (I hear that in a decade or two, there may be no more commercial production of maple syrup, just as an example.)

Maybe some of this sounds familiar to all you longtime Jamaica goers? Because annual rainfall has been dropping throughout the Caribbean. But according to the farmers I talked to in Logwood 2 years ago, the change in the last couple years has been dramatic.

I’m not particularly trying to come to the defence of the Jamaican water authority, but they simply do not have it in their power to create water if rain does not fall.

And so they face really difficult decisions in terms of how to share out the water that is available. I don’t know who I would deny: The people who have none at all, or hardly ever, or who carry in a pail? The resorts that supply most of the government funding? The tourists who save up a few thousand for a week and expect therefore to be able to wash the salt off whenever they feel like it? Add to that the fact that some of the water infrastructure is old and damaged and leaking (just like through North America, except our pavement is thicker), and that some people tap in illegally (consider that the poorest Jamaicans pay more than 10% of household income on water!!!) and there are even more problems to solve.

If you’re not entirely bored with this rant yet, you might want to scan this article

http://sspp.proquest.com/archives/vol8iss2/communityessay.waite.html which is pretty heavy going but has some interesting facts.

But I guess all I’m saying is, if I was there now I would be getting my water collection tank in order, revisiting how to take a navy shower, putting a couple of bricks in the toilet tank to reduce demand, and whatever else I could think of to conserve water… because this problem is not likely to end anytime soon, and we’re all in this together 

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