BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau Thursday, July 30, 2015
SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — There was a healthy shower of rain in sections of south eastern St Elizabeth on July 18.
However, there has been no rain since and when asked about the last time rain fell before July 18, a group of young women at a shop in Ballards Valley laughingly told the Jamaica Observer "can't recall".
The farming communities of south eastern St Elizabeth and southern Manchester are parched, rendering farming impossible in the absence of water, and with every passing day the local authorities are finding it more difficult and expensive to truck drinking water to thirsty residents.
Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth South Eastern Richard Parchment believes the effect of the current drought is even worst than that of last year, which was described by many as the worst in living memory.
"The thing is that since the drought of last year there has been no recharge or refilling of rain water storage tanks, so the effect now is even worse," said Parchment.
Less than half of St Elizabeth's residents have access to piped water from the National Water Commission (NWC). Those without NWC water are reliant on community catchment/storage tanks, referred to locally as 'parish tanks' supervised by the parish councils; and household tanks.
But as the seasonal drought takes hold, many catchment tanks are now dry, forcing those who can afford it to buy expensive trucked water from private operators. It is also placing a heavy burden on parish councillors and members of parliament to provide residents at the lower end of the socio-economic scale with trucked 'social water'.
Chairman of the St Elizabeth Parish Council and mayor of Black River, Everton Fisher said the two trucks operated by the St Elizabeth Parish Council "have been overwhelmed by the demand for water".
The parish council is buying water from the NWC at $8,000 per truck load and, as has occurred in the past, Fisher is urging a special dispensation so domestic water for trucking can be accessed at a cheaper rate.
Fisher was thankful that the water ministry has been able to grant "about $6-7 million" over the last four months to fund water trucking. He was hopeful that special representation to the local government ministry would also bear fruit.
In Manchester, chairman of the parish council and Mayor of Mandeville Brenda Ramsay said the situation was also very challenging. "Contrary to what a lot of people think, we are also having a very serious drought in Manchester," she told the Observer. more