A US-BASED HYDROLOGIST has discovered an untapped water source at The UWI, Mona Campus which is poised to slash the institution’s utility bill by more than 40 per cent, increase capacity and ease the current water shortage.
Dr Roland ‘Skip’ Hoag Jr, who has been supervising groundwater exploration programmes for around 30 years in the United States, Caribbean and Africa, carried out the hydrological studies and found water in College Common, an area reserved for faculty housing.
His company, North Star Development Holdings Limited — a private, American-owned, Nevis-incorporated development company backed by US investment firms – was one of several which had submitted proposals to The University to drill a water well.
Dr Ronald Robinson, UWI Special Projects Consultant in the Office of the Campus Principal, said The University subsequently entered into a public-private agreement with North Star Development to explore and develop a well for the supply of water to meet the needs of the campus.
He said the requisite applications were submitted to the Water Resources Authority, which approved the drilling of the well. “Once the well is commissioned and the necessary testing completed, an extraction licence will be granted,” he added.
Robinson said the agreement will see North Star operating the well on behalf of The University for 20 years, resulting in significant savings for The University.
“Under this project we will pay North Star Development about $7.5 million per month. Our [National Water Commission] NWC water bill is therefore going to fall from $18.7 million per month to about $7.5 million; so we will save about $11 million,” said UWI, Mona Principal and Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Archibald McDonald.
The project is being carried out in phases. The production well, which will produce the water, has been completed and workmen are currently laying pipes to take the water to the UWI, Mona community. This pipe-laying exercise is expected to be completed at the end of this month. Principal McDonald said the NWC was also assisting with survey work which involves locating and replacing leaky pipes to shore up the distribution network.
“The first phase is the immediate connection to our existing network for the supply of water, and the next phase will involve the establishment of the storage facilities to store up to 1.5 million gallons of water,” Robinson said. The expected date for the completion of all phases should be in another six months,” he added.
Principal McDonald recalled that there were some anxious moments when no water was found 700 feet into the production well, even though the workmen had encountered water at 650 feet. “I was nervous,” he admitted. “I had a few sleepless nights; but thank God at 850 feet they found a large body of water.”
The Mona Campus requires approximately 750,000 gallons of water per day. The well, when commissioned, is expected to produce more than a million gallons per day, more than enough to meet the needs of the Mona community which, like the rest of Jamaica, has been severely affected by drought.
“This is why this is such an important project for us,” McDonald emphasised.
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