What part of ‘saving for a rainy day’ did we misunderstand? Ironically, if it rained a lot, we would not need to save so much…water, that is. Here we are again. In drought. Without water. Hearing lamentations about how reservoir levels are low. WATER CRISIS. I remember visiting Jamaica a few years ago when Kingston was in severe drought. Cars were filthy. No one was using hoses. Water lock off was complete. Now, years later, the same situation looms. We’ve come through the dry season and are waiting for the abundant rains that usually hit us around April. We had a hint last week, and I imagine many were glad for the cooler air and the prospect that reservoirs would start to fill up again. What strikes me is that in the years since that dust bowl experience little has been done to address what is an annual problem. But, what should I really expect? Jamaica is not the land of forward planning and learning from mistakes. Jamaica is the land of making the same mistake repeatedly…the land of the madman. Anthony Winkler’s The Lunatic should be read again.
I’ve gotten used to the nightly routine of water lock-off in my area. The whole corporate area was put on notice this week that restrictions would be widened. I read a notice from last year from the Office of Disaster Preparedness (ODPEM), urging the nation to not wait until the drought hits to prepare. We can all make the little efforts. I shower with the dishes at my feet and use the soap running off my body to get my plates clean. I brush my teeth at the same time, just opening my mouth while washing my hair. My family all shower together. I use a bucket that I give to my child to play with instead of a hose and take teaspoonfuls of water from it to give some plants a tipple. Whenever it rains, we put out buckets, mainly to catch rain to water plants. But, I should be doing nothing of the sort. Living in the city it seems that saving water is not what better off people do. If in need of water, just go to buy a few gallon bottles of spring water. I’m sure there are households that have several gallons ready to roll, even to use for showers. Extreme? Maybe. When it rains in Jamaica it usually pours, and runs away. The cascades are really fun to watch. We can get thoroughly drenched in minutes when it rains here. But, we let the water waste. I was shocked to hear one of the National Water Commission officials talk about the low levels of the reservoirs on one hand, and on the other the way that water is ‘let off’ when rain is excessive. Adding that NWC needed to find way to save that excess. Well, blow me down with a feather. I think he’s got it! NWC could be called National Wasters Commission. The land of wood and water is not constantly without piped water. We are constantly under threat that our water wont be there. But, from what I have seen, not a single national action has been put in place to deal with the fact that we have serious dry spells every year. I caught a few minutes of Barbara Gloudon’s call-in program on RJR yesterday and it was so sad to hear two caller beg for “just a trickle” of water. One man had no water for three days; another, none for a day. NWC announced that we have a new water regime from yesterday. In florid prose–‘Continued precipitous declines in inflows from the major rivers’… we were told that we would only have ‘piped water between 4:00 am and 8:00 am each morning and again between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm each evening’ (If I worked in New Kingston, I’d be fine all day because the business district will have water when it’s not available where i live. But, what about the businesses in those mainly residential areas. Cue, the shuffling feet.) We had another advisory from ODPEM yesterday, with the same advice as last year. Luckily, my child had swim practice yesterday, and I had a cake of soap under the bag of bun and cheese, so she took her bath in the pool. Sorry, for not having cleaned off the scum, but we’ll be back there on Saturday, and we will do it again. I will advise the school to make sure its team is aware that it’s bathe there or nowhere. Jamaica does not have to wait for a spaceship with super intelligent aliens to arrive and give us the magic answer about saving water. The world has many examples. Please, please, please, NWC, start getting us to do this. Give people a discount on their bills to defray the cost. Even set it up to make all the money yourselves by installing. I really don’t care. But, stop locking off the water and pointing a finger in the air, or sticking a nose up to sniff if rain is coming. It will come, but it will also go again. Did I just mention a few days ago about how we lack leadership? Well, with all of the splishing and splashing absent in many households, what better time to think and show we can think about water policy? Yesterday, I see, ‘Water Sector Policy consultations’ began (the first, in Wexford, St. James). The MD of the Water Resources Authority, Basil Fernandez told the media that “we do have have water that is not evenly distributed…” “We have adequate water sources. What we don’t have is persons living near the water sources.” He talked about the hilly terrain and the cost of moving water. Get ready for higher bills, friends. Of course, we could all move to the hills and turn Rasta and grow ganja. A ministry spokesperson, Patricia Snow-Young, did a bit of a snow job. She mentioned that rural areas’ access to potable water is about 45 percent, and that the aim is to have as close to 100 percent as possible. For diligent readers that means not much, because 50 percent may be as close as possible. But, let me not unkind to the lady. Let hope spring forth. I really ought to get to some of these meetings and hear what is being said. The Kingston consultation will be on April 30, at the Courtleigh, at 6pm. It’s in the calendar, now. 🙂