Water Resources Act

Promulgated in 1995 and enacted in 1996

The Water Resources Act (1995) was promulgated in the Jamaican Parliament in September 1995 and enacted into law on 1st April 1996.  This marked a 25-year effort to address the deficiencies in legislation for the proper administration, development and optimal use of the island's water resources.  While all the above is good, what exactly does it mean to the water sector, to the public who may be inadequately served or not served at all by a water supply system, and to the overall economic and environmental development of Jamaica?  Let us look at two areas, viz Planning and Water Quality Control.

The Act gives to the Water Resources Authority (WRA) the responsibility for planning.  The orderly development and equitable allocation of water resources, including the analysis of alternative methods of developing and supplying water, can now be executed.  The alternative methods will examine how best to supply water without damage to the environment and economic setback.  Too often a water supply is put in place and no thought is given to areas such as expansion of urbanization, or population growth.  Within a short time the system cannot meet demands, there is conflict among the various sectors and confusion occurs.  The WRA will maintain an inventory of resources and demands by sector (domestic, irrigation, industrial and tourism), and determine the growth in demand well into the next century, to ensure that available water can be optimally allocated while at the same time preserving the environment.  This National Water Plan will recommend the projects, programmes and other steps, that should be taken in respect of development, control, abstraction and storage of water as well as its supply, distribution and disposal.  In anticipation of the new Act, a draft plan was prepared by the WRA in September 1990.

The newspapers are continuously publishing articles on the outbreak of gastroenteritis and other similar illnesses, as a result of persons drinking unsafe water.  Expansion of housing and the disposal of sewage, especially in limestone areas, expansion of industries with hazardous effluent discharges and watershed degradation can impact negatively and significantly on the quality of water.  Sewage contamination can lead to dysentery and cholera, industrial discharges can be carcinogenic and watershed degradation can increase sedimentation with disease-causing pathogens.The Act allows the WRA to declare a water quality zone to protect water quality in the public's interest.  Working with the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA), the WRA can apply the principle 'The polluter pays' and force anyone polluting to clean up.  Scenic and environmental values such as Dunns River and YS Falls would be given special consideration in the protection of water quality.  The WRA can also be proactive by declaring proposed industrial areas Water Quality Control Areas and putting in place the standards and conditions to protect water quality.It is evident, if only from the two examples discussed above, that the enactment of this progressive piece of legislation, the Water Resources Act (1995), can only benefit the achievement of sustainable development.


Summary of the Water Resources Act Arrangement of Sections

PART I. Preliminary.
1. Short title and commencement.
2. Interpretation.
PART II. Administration of Water Resources
3. Establishment of Authority.  
4. Functions of Authority.
5. Ministerial directions.
6. Funds and resources of the WRA.
7. Application of revenues.
8. Borrowing powers.
9. Power to Minister to guarantee loans to WRA.
10. Power to invest moneys
11. Accounts and audit.
12. Annual report.
13. Exemptions from taxes and duties.
14. Establishment of Advisory Committee.
15. Functions of Committee.
16. Master Plan.
PART III. Abstraction and Use of Water
17. Application of this Act to abstraction and use of water.
18. Crown waters.
19. Licence required for abstraction, use of water.
20. Who may apply.
21. Regulations relating to licences under this Part.
22. Implied term in every licence.
23. Simultaneous application for licence to discharge effluents.
24. Approval of works by WRA not guarantee.
25. Planning permission still necessary.
26. Easement may be claimed.
27. Constitution of easement.
28. Registration, etc. of easement.
29. Interconnected, surface and underground water.
30. Minister may declare emergency area.
31. Powers of WRA in emergency.
32. Sources of supply reserved for public purposes.
33. Licences for use of reserved sources of supply.
PART IV. Control and Protection of Underground Water - Control of Well-Drilling
34. Consent of Authority to search for underground water.
35. Duty on well-driller to be licenced, etc.
36. Well-driller and mining operations.
37. Waste of underground water from wells unlawful.
38. WRA may determine safe yield of aquifers.
PART V. Control of Water Quality.
39. Water Quality Control Areas.
40. Water Quality Control Plans.
PART VI. Supplementary Powers of WRA.
41. Enforcement of regulatory controls.
42. Supplementary provisions as to enforcement.
PART VII. General
43. Appeal.
44. Penalties.
45. Suspension of licence additional penalty.
46. Fees and charges.
47. Offenses by corporations.
48. Agencies to consult WRA prior to giving decisions.
49. Regulations.
50. Modification of laws.
51. Repeal of certain enactments and savings.
52. Act applies to Crown.
53. Amendment to certain enactments.
PART VIII. Savings and Transitional Provisions
54. Entitlement to licence in certain circumstances.
55. Provisions relating to special agreements.
56. Vesting of property previously held by the Underground Water Authority (UWA).
57. Saving of rights of existing staff of Underground Water Authority (UWA).
58. Construction of references to Underground Water Control Act.

Get Your Own Copy of the Water Resources Act

You may view a copy of the Water Resources Act (1995) at the Ministry of Justice web site.Copies of the Water Resources Act (1995) may also be purchased from the Printing Services Ltd formerly the Jamaica Government Printers, Duke Street, Jamaica, West Indies.