Find Water and Sanitation expertise in Jamaica

The Ministry of Water, Land Environment and Climate Change coordinates the provision of all water-related services in Jamaica. The National Water Commission (NWC), established under The National Water Commission Act of 1980, is a statutory organisation responsible for providing 190 million potable water and waste-water services and is the only supplier on the island. The NWC is known to operate and maintain over 4,000 km of pipelines and more than 500 km of sewer mains island-wide. Jamaica has many rich water resources but the uneven rainfall distribution creates challenges in providing water to the drier regions of the country.

Other bodies used to discharge the duty of water-related services include the Water Resources Authority (WRA), Rural Water Supply Ltd, the National Meteorological Service (NMS) and the National Irrigation Commission (NIC). The primary law in Jamaica governing the duty of the government in providing water is the Water Resources Act (1995), which came into force in 1996. The Government also promises to have an efficient sewage system for all citizens by the year 2020 to help economic development.

In St Andrews the most recent projects, The Mona Reservoir – which intakes the Hope and Yallahs Rivers – has a storage capacity of 3.67 million cubic metres and is one of the two major water storage facilities located in St Andrews. The other facility is Hermitage Reservoir – which intakes the Ginger and Wag/Morsham Rivers – has a storage capacity 1.78 million m3.

Access to drinking water in urban Jamaica is good with 98% of the population having access to improved water sources (2010). In rural areas this figure is slightly lower with 88% of the population having access to improved water sources and 12% using unimproved sources, a level of development which has not changed over the past decade according to the World Health Organisation and Unicef.

Although access is good there is room for improvement in piping water to homes in Jamaica, in 2007, 30% of people did not have access to water in their homes. Some rural areas rely on unsafe drinking water being brought in on trucks from elsewhere and there is some scepticism about past promises to pipe water to remote and difficult to access rural areas. Bottled water is increasingly popular and there are around 15 companies producing water in Jamaica. Imported water from US and further afield makes the market fiercely competitive.

Unlike drinking water, access to improved sanitation is higher in rural Jamaica where 82% access improved sanitation contrasted with 78% of the urban population. Only 1% of the total population of Jamaica only has access to open defecation sewerage. Fresh water comes from both surface and ground water, being rivers, lakes, streams and springs and water filtered through rocks and sediments. A report compiled by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) in 2005 stated that agricultural activity was causing pollution to fresh water supplies in some areas. Furthermore salt water affected around 10% of water sources and sewage dumped into rivers was also lessening the supply of potable water.

Water and Sanitation organisations in Jamaica
National Irrigation Commission (NIC)
National Meteorological Service (NWS)
Water Resources Authority