Physical Facilities and Operations
The National Water Commission produces more than 90% of Jamaica's total potable water supply from a network of more than 160 underground wells, over 116 river sources (via water treatment plants) and 147 springs. The Parish Councils, The Runaway Bay Water Company and the Four Rivers Development Company, and a small number of other private water companies provide the rest of the potable water supply, while The National Irrigation Commission provides irrigation services.
Approximately 30% of the water abstracted in Jamaica is used to meet the demand for potable water and the remaining 70% is used for irrigation.
The NWC operates more than 1,000 water supply and over 100 sewerage facilities islandwide. These vary from large raw water storage reservoirs at Hermitage and Mona in St. Andrew and the Great River treatment plant in St. James, to medium sized and small diesel-driven pumping installations serving rural towns and villages across Jamaica.
Approximately 70% of Jamaica's population is supplied via house connections from the National Water Commission and the remaining 30% obtains water from standpipes, water trucks, wayside tanks, community catchment tanks, rainwater catchment tanks and direct access to rivers and streams.
Approximately 30% of Jamaica's population is served by sewerage facilities operated by the NWC. This includes some small sewerage systems, utilizing package plants, which are associated with housing developments in various locations throughout the country. The disposal of the sewage generated in the remainder of the population is done through various types of on-site systems such as septic tanks, soak-away pits, tile fields and pit latrines or other systems operated by other entities.
The NWC facilities also include over 10,000 kilometres of pipelines and more than 1,000 kilometres of sewer mains across the island. From rivers, springs and wells, the NWC supplies some 190 million gallons of potable water each day to persons across Jamaica.
Water is what the National Water Commission (NWC) is all about. It is its raw material and its end product. We collect, refine and distribute the purified commodity to industrial and domestic consumers over a hilly land area of 10,990 square kilometres. This is a huge and costly responsibility that must be carried out as the Commission seeks to provide potable water supply services for 2.7 million Jamaicans, plus visitors to the island, in addition to the collection, treatment and disposal of wastewater.
The NWC operates within the policy context of the Government of Jamaica's goal of universal access to potable water by the year 2025 and the establishment of sewerage systems in all major towns by 2020. This presents a serious challenge for the NWC because proper water supply and wastewater services are highly involved, complex, and costly, and become even graver when coupled with the difficulties in collecting revenue that limit the availability of funds for timely improvement, expansion and maintenance operations.
This responsibility is also a serious challenge because, despite Jamaica being blessed with excellent and relatively abundant water sources, the areas of high water demand are often far away from the required water resources. A community such as Mandeville, in Manchester, is one example of an area that is without a reliable water source and therefore has to be supplied from water sources near the Clarendon border and in St. Elizabeth. Similarly, Kingston and St. Andrew is provided with much of its water from St. Catherine and St. Thomas. Many water sources also do not provide a guaranteed year-round yield. Additionally, the often mountainous and rugged terrain over which water distribution systems have to operate presents significant challenges and saddles the Commission with very high electricity bills as electrical equipment is used to pump water to these hilly areas.
Despite the many challenges, the NWC recognizes that water is essential for national development and has undertaken a number of projects to continue its drive to bring water to more communities and improve service in existing areas. These projects include the development of new water supply and wastewater treatment plants islandwide as well as the rehabilitation and upgrading of existing facilities. The NWC's infrastructure expansion now facilitates water supply systems that pump water over rugged and wooded terrain, to numerous hilly and low-lying towns and districts, which previously had no piped water service.