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Impact of El Niño and Climate Change on Rainwater Harvesting in a Caribbean State

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The water situation of the Pusey district in St Catherine parish of Jamaica is acute because of the district’s hilly terrains which made connections to centralised public water supply difficult. Residents depend on rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems to meet potable needs, like many other catchments across Jamaica. Rainwater collecting practices and water use habits of the residents were surveyed and the present and future RWH capacity was evaluated using the available 18 years (1996 to 2013) rainfall data and downscaled PRECIS model A2 and B2 climate change scenarios. In addition, the effect of El Niño episodes on rainfall patterns was evaluated. The coefficients of variations for annual rainfall were found to be higher for the El Niño years than in normal years. In two of the El Niño years (1997 and 2009), rainwater harvesting capacity is negatively impacted as rainfall annual total is (42 % and 34 %) lesser than the average annual rainfall. The ability of RWH to meet potable needs in 2030s and 2050s will be reduced based on predicted shorter intense showers and frequent dry spells. A storage tank of 2.5 to 4.0 m3 per household (4 persons) is proposed to meet water demand during the maximum consecutive dry days, and January and February water shortage periods. Design of efficient RWH systems and provision of government subsidy on storage tanks will enable the residents to capture more rainwater to meet their daily domestic needs.

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Correspondence to Olanike Aladenola.

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Aladenola, O., Cashman, A. & Brown, D. Impact of El Niño and Climate Change on Rainwater Harvesting in a Caribbean State. Water Resour Manage 30, 3459–3473 (2016).

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  • Climate change
  • Pusey District
  • Rainfall variability
  • Rainwater harvesting