THE National Water Commission (NWC) has announced a prohibition order banning the use of water in drought-stricken areas of the island for non-essential purposes, but the agency has not been able to clearly define how it will treat events, such as water parties, which are popular during the summer months.
Speaking with the Jamaica Observer Wednesday following a press conference held at the head offices of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), acting president of the NWC Mark Barnett explained that it was difficult to determine where the water is being sourced for these “water parties”.
“A licenced entity can abstract water outside of the NWC — from wells and springs etc — and they are allowed to sell water to whom they please. Where you find that those persons may be involved in selling water to these events, then that would not fall under our purview whatsoever. Going to an event to monitor, the NWC will be told that the water was bought elsewhere. We don’t necessarily have honest people. That the water can be imported into the event, is always going to pose a challenge,” he said.
Barnett said the only way to tackle the problem is through policy, since the NWC has no authority to ban these events. “It would have to come from the ministry to say these events are prohibited. It’s not something that the NWC can (have legislated), knowing very well that the water may not be coming from the NWC system. That’s something that we will be discussing with the ministry,” he added.
State minister for water, land and environment Ian Hayles agreed that it would be a good idea to have promoters disclose the source of the water they will be using for an event, at the same time when they apply for permits to host these events. “We will be doing some consultation with the KSAC, to have some consultation with the ministry before they give the permit, in terms of where the water will be coming from,” he said.
In the meantime, Barnett said the NWC would be doing rigourous policing of neighbourhoods where water use and wastage are at the highest. He said some car washes will also come under the microscrope.
According to the NWC, while the prohibition order is in force, persons using excessive quantities of water outside of drinking, bathing, cooking, washing, and sanitation purposes, will find themselves in trouble with the law, and will be liable to a fine or 30 days imprisonment.
But the authorities could not say how many persons have actually been taken before the courts since the NWC has been issuing these prohibition notices over the years.
Chief executive officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust, Diana McCaulay, who raised a number of concerns at the press conference, took issue with the paltry fines associated with the offence, and cautioned the Government against sending mixed signals to the public when it issues a prohibition notice, but allows some activities such as construction, which require the use of large amounts of water to continue.