Miami conference could offer answers to Jamaica’s water woes

THE Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA) Conference and Exhibition in Miami could offer up solutions to Jamaica’s prevailing water woes.

“This CWWA is coming at a very crucial time and serves as a great opportunity for exchanging experiences, learning of new and more appropriate water and wastewater management technologies and options, and fostering new partnerships among private sector, donors, intergovernmental agencies, academia, NGOs, youth groups, utilities, and the public sector,” said Christopher Corbin, programme officer for

assessment and management of environmental pollution and officer in charge of communication, education, training and awareness at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit.

UNEP is a partner in the conference.

“It also offers, through the Ministerial HLF (High Level Forum), an opportunity to raise these issues at the highest political level (CARICOM) and to explore how linking to climate change can help further the water and sustainable development agenda in the region as we lead up to the next Climate Change COP (Conference of the Parties),” he added.

The conference, which kicked off Monday, is being held under the theme “Improving the Quality of Life with Water and Waste Management Solutions” at the InterContinental Hotel.

Among the issues being explored is wastewater as a resource. To inform those discussions, the Global Environment Facility-funded Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (GEF CReW) project held a regional “Resource Valuation Workshop’ on the fringe of the conference this past weekend.

The workshop was intended to share experiences from the development and application of a resource valuation methodology for use in wastewater management planning based on case studies in Trinidad & Tobago and Panama.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) conducted the studies in collaboration with local agencies.

Chris Corbin of UNEP (Photo: Contributed)
Chris Corbin of UNEP (Photo: Contributed)

“Coastal ecosystem valuation has contributed to better-informed and more holistic decision-making about resource use, has helped in the justification of policies and investments that protect coastal ecosystems or promote their sustainable use, and has helped with the identification of sources of finance for coastal conservation,” noted a UNEP release.

“WRI proposed a valuation methodology based on typical economic analyses used by infrastructure decision-makers, but tailored for water resource managers and updated to consider ecological and health co-benefits from wastewater treatment. The valuation methodology used is a cost-benefit analysis, which evaluates the marginal improvements to ecosystem and human health as a result of improved wastewater management, and compares these with marginal costs,” it added.

Wastewater, a valuable resource for Jamaica. (Photo: Contributed)
Wastewater, a valuable resource for Jamaica. (Photo: Contributed)

Among other things, the studies aim to improve local and national capacity for wastewater management, in line with project objectives to:

  • identify infrastructure investment options for wastewater management, for both green and grey infrastructure;
  • value costs and benefits of possible wastewater management options, including both direct and indirect benefits; and
  • develop a greater understanding and capacity for valuing coastal ecosystems and wastewater management options and improving regional understanding of the connection between wastewater treatment and coastal ecosystems.

Meanwhile, Jamaica has set itself a target for the use of wastewater, as reflected in the new draft Water Sector Policy and Implementation Plan. The plan, states: “The Government encourages the re-use of treated wastewater where it is safe and economical. Wastewater that is properly treated at sewage treatment plants may be safe for activities such as irrigation and some industrial processes.”

“Over the longer term and something we definitely have to give more consideration to is reusing treated water for irrigation purposes and that would free up more of the freshwater that currently goes to irrigation for domestic purposes,” said Colonel Oral Khan, chief technical director in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change.

The island has been hard hit by unusually low levels of rainfall, which have prompted water lock-offs by the National Water Commission.

 

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Author:

I am a Jamaican journalist, writer, development worker and nascent 'social media student'. I have had a longstanding interest in environmental reporting, thanks in part to my first editor and good friend, Charmaine Clarke, who threw me, head first, into the coverage of same. I have no regrets.

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