Among nations, Jamaica ranks high in water issues, with a World Research Institute report showing us tied for first with 15 other nations for “most water stressed.” Surprisingly, this report shows that in terms of water risk, Jamaica and several other Caribbean nations are on par with nations located in desert climates. Jamaica can take solace that we are not alone in our water woes, but more importantly we can learn from the measures that some of these other countries have taken to correct their own issues.
Desalination is the process of converting seawater to freshwater. It is used in more than 120 countries, with many nations in North Africa and the Middle East employing this process. Many of our Caribbean neighbours also use desalination, with Curacao building its first desalination plant about 80 years ago. California, in the midst of an ongoing four-year drought, is in the process of constructing the largest desalination facility in the Western Hemisphere by 2016.
Perhaps the largest barrier to Jamaica’s adoption of desalination is the price tag, as the process is costly and energy intensive. Nevertheless, with increasingly energy-efficient facilities and the introduction of solar and geothermal powered desalination plants, this may soon be a more feasible choice.
Water conservation and reuse
Countries such as Israel, which recycles the majority of its waste water, are prime examples of how conserving water could resolve our water problems here in Jamaica. Singapore, a country that has no natural freshwater sources, has solved its scarcity issues in part by treating and reusing “grey water,” which refers to water from sources such as sinks, showers, and washing machines.
In the United Kingdom, smart metering, allows people to track their water usage and easily locate leaks. Such upgrades in technology can empower the public to play a more active role in solving water problems. Building on the theme of empowering the public, many nations have implemented extensive public education policies urging persons to be more responsible consumers of water.
Water sharing and importation
In bordering nations, shared water resources can be sources of conflict, such as the Ganges river issue between India and Bangladesh. Increasingly, however, nations in such cases are creating treaties and other deals to share water with each other.
Other nations are importing water to solve their water shortages. In fact, Singapore’s water issue is partially solved through the importation of water from Malaysia. Israel, having invested heavily in desalination to solve its own issues, exports its excess treated water to other countries.
How feasible any of these solutions could be in Jamaica is yet to be seen. The solution to our water problems will not be easily arrived at, so its wise that we consider a number of options to create a plan that works best for us. Continue to read about global water issues here on diGJamaica with our Water Scarcity- Some Things You Need To Know post.