Two Jamaican communities get running water for the first time

In a long anticipated municipal water supply application in Jamaica, ITT Industries' Goulds Pumps Vertical Turbine unit supplied the pumps and the expertise to bring running water for the first time to two communities.

Nov 13th, 2001

November 9, 2001 — In a long anticipated municipal water supply application in Jamaica, ITT Industries' Goulds Pumps Vertical Turbine unit supplied the pumps and the expertise to bring running water for the first time to two communities.

This new water supply project will improve the health and the economic outlook of these communities by providing clean, potable running water. The project that will ultimately supply water for more than 29,000 persons in 13 communities, they will, however be charge for their water consumption.

The Economics of Water Supply

The rural Parish of Westmoreland lies in the south-west portion of Jamaica and includes the town of Withorn and Darliston as well as many other small towns. The people in these communities in the eastern portion of Westmoreland have not had potable water for decades.

Abe Hernandez, international sales manager for Goulds' Texas Turbine Pump operation notes that, "with the closest water source 12 miles away, and the communities 1,200 feet above where the water source is, the economics of bringing the water to these communities proved difficult to overcome."

In fact, water supply plans for Westmoreland Parish have been on the drawing board since the 1950s.

Hernandez continued, "Can you imagine a community in the 21st century where almost 30,000 people are without water? And this in an area with great growth potential for tourism and industry!"

Apparently the government of Jamaica couldn't imagine a future for these communities without a modern water supply either, and embarked on a project to supply the area. Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean. It is 144 miles long and 49 miles wide, with major industries based on tourism, agriculture and Bauxite mining.

Jamaica is famous for its music, beautiful beaches and jungle mountaintops and clear waterfalls. It is also very hilly and mountainous - which makes infrastructure development such as water supply systems difficult to build.

Prior to the implementation of this water project, the main supplies of water for the communities in eastern Westmorland were a well at Withorn and the nearby Flanders Pond and that source was subsequently abandoned. Since then, water had to be trucked into the area and deposited in a catchment tank.

From there it was gravity-fed to a pumping station which distributed it into small pipelines. This method of supply, however, was woefully inadequate and very expensive. In addition, water trucks often brought expensive water directly to residents.

According to school officials in the area, the arrival of these trucks often disrupted school because of the need for students to help their families collect water as the trucks arrived.

With full funding from the Jamaican government, the National Water Commission of Jamaica began construction of the Darliston Water Supply System in 1998 as a major effort to improve the water supply in the parish and to better serve communities such as Whithorn and Darliston.

According to Hernandez, "They needed to revamp water supplies to an area that had insufficient water supply because of very old and inefficient equipment." In addition, more people were moving to this area, so the demands on the water supply system were building up.

The National Water Commission of Jamaica had hired an engineering firm, Carib Engineering, to do the design work on this new water project. Carib Engineering specializes in determining the future needs of infrastructure systems, taking into account the long-term development of the area to be served. Once Carib Engineering designs and oversees the construction of the water project, the Jamaican Water Commission takes over the existing facilities.

Higher Pressure Needed for Hilly Terrain

The products specified by the engineering firm for this job were to be all vertical turbines. Because this rural area is so hilly, with the need to boost water over steep hills and small mountains, the only practical pumps for this job were vertical turbines that produce more pressure than horizontal pumps.

According to Hernandez, "This is what we do well at Goulds' Texas Turbine Division." "We have the highest efficiencies in this range of pumps, so we provide the lowest total cost of operation, an important part of total Life Cycle Cost." Hernandez continued, saying, "The engineering firm, being focused on the future requirements of the customer, needed to specify a pump that took into account the total cost of ownership."

Because of the high cost of generating power on an island nation where most energy must be transported to the island, the excellent energy efficiencies of the Goulds vertical turbine pumps were highly valued by the Jamaican National Water Commission.

A supplier for the system piping and a Goulds Pump representative, noted the efficiency of the new water supply system. Clinton Thompson, of Sunshine Pumps and Supply, explained that the system was fully remote controlled, with no operators needed at each station. With computer monitoring, the system can sense the levels at each station.

When the water falls below a certain level, the pumps turn on automatically. The 4 pumps at each station are on 100% standby, with 2 different pumps working each new cycle. According to Thompson, this procedure will help extend the working life cycle of the pumps. He also noted that the soft start motors will help keep maintenance costs down.

Paying for System Upkeep - The Cost of Water

Although construction of the water supply project was funded entirely by the Jamaican government, the costs for running and maintaining the system will not be free for the users. Prime Minister Patterson said, "People are going to have connections into their yards and into their houses. It comes at a cost, and is not free." In an analogy meant to communicate the value of water, Patterson told the audience

that, "Thieving a goat is not less than thieving water."

The water scheme will be self-supporting with a payment system based on the ability of the individual consumer to pay. Even those at the lower rungs of the economic ladder will be entitled to running water through monthly water ration cards. Water usage to all homeowners and commercial users will be determined through water meters, which will be installed with financing from the government. The overall plan is to charge enough from users in the area to maintain the system well into the future.

"There is no human activity that can be conducted in the absence of water." Patterson told residents at the official opening ceremony in Darliston. "Therefore, you cannot measure the value of water simply by calculating it in money terms. You have to look at it in social terms, what it means to our schools, what it means to our health system, what it means when it is causing young people to move away from rural communities." he said.

A Long History of Water Supply

History records that the first ever piped water supply system for the Western Hemisphere originated in the town of Falmouth, Jamaica in 1799. According to a World Health Organization Study and UNICEF, the percentage of the rural population in Jamaica that has access to clean, potable water today is 59%. This contrasts with 81% in urban set-tings on the island. The Jamaican government has stated their support for a program that would supply universal access to water for all Jamaicans by 2005.

This is a tall order, but one to which the current administration is committed. One government document noted that, "We must remove, once and for all, the spectacle of our women and children carrying water on their heads for long distances. We believe in the people's right to have adequate water supplies and we will not rest until we have completely satisfied this objective."

The next phase of the Darliston Water Supply Scheme will involve the laying of distribution lines to other communities over the next few months. The system will then join up with other systems at Whitehouse and Three Rivers to provide a more integrated water supply system. The project will serve an estimated 29,000 people. As a basis of comparison, only 800 people in the area were receiving water when the project started, In addition to the Darliston Water Supply Scheme, several major water supply and wastewater projects are currently being undertaken in Jamaica. Taken together, these projects will represent an expenditure of in excess of $5 billion.

In another statement, the Prime Minister explained the value of water, saying, "While we vigorously pursue our ambitions with regards to universal water coverage, I urge citizens to understand that neither Jamaica's nor the world's supply of water, is unlimited. Water is a precious commodity and most times we do not fully recognize its importance until we are in short supply.

The message, which flows from this, is that we must conserve our use of water. Do not take it for granted, but rather treat it with the respect it deserves."

Now, this area of Jamaica can depend on good quality, high-pressure drinking water for the foreseeable future. Over 29 communities in all will be served by this water system. Because this locale is a prime spot for the development of tourism, the vertical turbine pumps are helping the local economy and inhabitants by providing clean water as well as a key piece of the infrastructure needed for sustainable development.

Because of the technical, political, and economic intricacies of this project, Hernandez wanted to note the hard work of Jesus Rodriguez, sales rep for Goulds Pumps as well as Clinton Thompson of Sunshine Pumps. As for the value of this project to Hernandez, he said that, "Its nice to know that these pumps are going to help change the lives of so many people."

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