General Information

Kingston, Jamaica
Kingston, Jamaica


Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean. The island is approximately 230 km long, oriented in an east‐west axis and is approximately 80 km at its widest point.  Land area is 10,990 km2, of which about 160 km2 are water bodies and the coastline is approximately 1,022 km long. The terrain is characterized by a mountainous region along the island’s east west axis and narrow coastal plains. The highest elevation is Blue Mountain Peak which is 2,256 m above sea level. Most major towns and cities are located on the coast, with the chief towns and cities being the capital Kingston, Montego Bay (its second city), Ocho Rios and Port Antonio.

 The local climate is tropical, with coastal areas having hot and humid weather and inland areas having a more temperate climate. Jamaica lies in the hurricane belt of the Atlantic Ocean and historically has experienced strong tropical hurricanes.

Jamaica’s freshwater resources come from surface sources (rivers and streams), underground sources (wells and springs) and rainwater harvesting. Groundwater supplies most water demands (approximately 80 per cent of production) and represents 84 per cent of the island’s exploitable water. Raw water supplies are directly affected by changes in climatic conditions. Changes in the amount of rainfall as well as its frequency and intensity determine the amount of water that will be available for exploitation. The changes to the amount of total rainfall that Jamaica may receive under the climate change scenarios are uncertain; however, even minor changes in Jamaica’s rainfall patterns could have significant impacts on its water resources.

Ocho Rios, North Coast, Jamaica
Ocho Rios, one of Jamaica's largest towns

The major sectors of the Jamaican economy are mining and quarrying, tourism, agriculture and manufacturing, with tourism and bauxite mining being the leading foreign exchange earners. The agriculture sector has been declining in recent years.

The capital is Kingston and the total population of the island is 2.74 million.

For more information see: http://jis.gov.jm/




Current Issues and Challenges in Wastewater Management

 (Source: “Regional Sectoral Overview of Wastewater Management in the Wider Caribbean Region. Situational Analysis” prepared by UNEP-CEP/RCU in 2010.)


  • Coverage of sewerage services has increased significantly in recent years, but it is less extensive than the coverage of water services. Significant investments and operational improvements are needed in this area.
  • Several assessments have revealed that the low level of performance of Jamaica’s wastewater sector has been linked to: improper plant designs; old technology; overloading; lack of maintenance and improper operations are possible reasons for the performance. A detailed examination of the situation indicates that operational and maintenance issues are the most predominant reasons for the low level of performance. The significant operational and maintenance issues are: plants in a state of disrepair; limited self-monitoring; over-loaded plants; limited technical capacity of the staff; inadequately trained staff and absence of documented standard operational procedures and as-built plans; lack of proper monitoring and analytical equipment, inadequate record-keeping and poor maintenance. 
    Shewsbury WWTP
    Shewsbury Wastewater Treatment Plant, Westmoreland
  • In 2002, the National Environmental Planning Agency (NEPA), through the Coastal Water Quality Improvement Project, (funded by the USAID and Government of Jamaica), commissioned a special study on the performance of the domestic wastewater sector. Over the period 2001-3, a combined total of 60 plants were monitored by NEPA through CWIP and the natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) Section 17 Programme. The results presented an alarming situation with low levels of compliance of the discharges generated with both the NRCA Sewage Effluent Standards and the LBS Protocol. For example, only 23 (40%) of plants met the national NRCA Sewage Effluent Standard for Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD). When the data for all the plants are combined, the average values exceeded all the respective limits for parameters outlined in the said Standards. Effluent data also indicated a significant deterioration in the performance and level of compliance of the sector over the previous three years.
  • The discharge of improperly treated wastewater effluent is one of the main contributors to coastal zone degradation in Jamaica.
  • Sewerage services exist in most major urban areas, and are being improved. The majority of the households (98.9 per cent) surveyed in 2007 had access to water closets and pit latrines, which were defined as acceptable forms of toilet facility. Water closet (flush toilet) was the main type, accounting for 64.3 per cent of households. Use of water closets has increased from 58.1 per cent in 1997 but has levelled off at 64.0 per cent since 2004. A distinction should, however, be made between access to flush toilets linked to wastewater treatment facilities (sewers) and those that are not. Some 42.4 per cent of households were not linked to sewers, indicating that soil absorption systems were the predominant means of sewage disposal for the country. 
  • Sewerage service is not generally provided in rural areas, except in small housing developments.  The percentage of rural households with water-carriage systems (flush toilets) has increased from 28 percent in 1990 to 31 percent in 1991. However, over the period 1997-2007, rural areas experienced a 10 percentage point increase. The commonest form of rural sanitation is the pit latrine, used by 68 percent of rural households. Septic tanks, pit latrines and other types of onsite sanitation services can be effective and safe. However if not constructed, used and maintained properly, they can pose a threat to health and the quality of aquifers and surface water. The lower population densities in rural areas mean that the cost of water provision is often higher than in urban areas, while lower incomes in many rural areas make it hard for some customers to meet the full cost of high quality services.
  • Industrial wastewater treatment facilities in the agro-industrial sector have been plagued with poor trade effluent discharge quality. This is of particular concern in the sugar cane industry, coffee industry, rum distilleries, and abattoirs. These wastewaters tend to have high biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), total suspended and dissolved solids (TSS), chemical oxygen demand (COD) and nutrients.  NEPA has been encouraging waste generators to look at waste minimization and cleaner production as alternative solutions which usually end up saving scarce financial resources as water and energy consumption are reduced. Codes of Practice have been developed for the coffee and sugar industries.
  • There are a number of entities that own and operate wastewater treatment facilities in Jamaica. Sewage treatment facilities comprise the largest network of wastewater treatment facilities on the island. There are approximately 260 sewage treatment plants in Jamaica, with the majority owned and operated by the National Water Commission (NWC).
  • The Soapberry Wastewater Treatment Plant in Kingston and St. Andrew is an example of an innovative approach to addressing a long-standing problem. The project cost was US$55M and the Urban Development Corporation was the lead agency in the construction phase of this project. The construction of the wastewater treatment plant commenced in July 2005 and was completed in 2007.  This was a critical project as a component in the Kingston Harbour Cleanup Project as it would result in properly treated effluent being discharged into the harbour.
  • Within the past decade, the NWC has completed three other new sewage treatment facilities in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril. This was necessary because tourist destinations that have seen rapid growth in population and tourism resorts resulting from migration into the areas, which strained and over-loaded the existing infrastructure.
  • In addition to the NWC, sewage treatment plants are owned by hotels, strata corporations and public housing development agencies; this sector, particularly the hotels, is dominated by mechanical packaged plants.
  • Over the past several years, there has been significant improvement in technology, and construction of new facilities with up-to-date performance. However, many of the plants across the island are currently using old technology; most are more than 30 years old, with some exceeding their design lifespan. In addition, the original designs for some plants do not allow them to discharge effluent of a quality that meets the NRCA Effluent Standards. However, in most cases, effluent discharged from treatment plants is not even meeting the standards according to their original design specifications. Coupled with this is the fact that most of the plants are mechanical, using the aerobic process for treatment. Also, the plants are subject to frequent interruptions in their operations (breakdowns).
  • Plants are being overloaded. This usually occurs in urban centres when the housing stocks are increased and connected to the plants without commensurate increase in capacity of existing plants and regulatory approvals.
  • Inadequate monitoring, reporting and limited enforcement options by regulatory agencies continue to allow plants to operate at undesirable levels.
  • The Jamaica Water Sector Policy (1999) articulates the government’s objectives in the provision of urban and rural water and sewerage services. In the area of the services provided to consumers, the Government intends to:
    • Ensure the availability of minimum necessary quantities of potable water and minimum standards of sanitation service to all in a cost effective and efficient manner, with due regard to health and environmental considerations and at a price customers can afford;
    • Ensure minimum standards/levels of service for the public supply of potable water. For municipal/urban households and other urban consumers, this will include potable water available 24 hours per day;
    • Focus the provision of water and sewerage services on meeting the needs of areas targeted by the National Industrial Policy so as to have the maximum impact on growth and development;
    • Provide for expansion of the sewerage network in areas with high population densities having regard to health and environmental considerations;
    • Ensure improvements in sewage treatment and disposal, to protect the environment;
    • Control and reduce the production of industrial effluents, and ensure that such effluents are adequately treated, to avoid contamination of existing water resources.
  • The revised draft Water Sector Policy, Strategy and Action Plan (2004) and the 2015 Draft outline the sewering of all major towns by 2020; and the rehabilitation of existing non-compliant facilities to achieve compliance with national environmental standards as key objectives.
  • The Draft Jamaica National Sanitation Policy (2005) consists of situation analysis which provides a background on sanitation at the local and national levels. The institutional framework for sanitation was outlined, including the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) and highlighted the importance of stakeholders in the improvement of sanitation. Additionally, the inter-linkages with other existing policies which can complement the sanitation policy were elucidated. These included the water sector policy, poverty eradication policy, health policy, solid waste management policy and the social housing policy.
  • The vision of the National Sanitation Policy is to see to it that “Every Jamaican understands what proper sanitation and hygiene means and has the means to be able to practice proper sanitation”. The main objectives which are:
    • Acceptable water supply and sewage and excreta disposal systems available in homes, schools and public places;
    • Sustained education on sanitation, hygiene and solid waste management for the general public, new parents and early childhood, primary and secondary students;
    • Sanitation facilities mandatory where food is prepared and sold and at public entertainment venues/functions;
    • All communities with a safe and reliable solid waste management system in place.

LBS Status

The Government of Jamaica acceded to the LBS Protocol on 5 November 2015

Key Documents

Coming soon.



More Resources

Coming soon.



What is the CReW?

The CReW is a four-year project that began in 2011. It is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Our Location

Project Coordinating Group

Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management
c/o Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
40 - 46 Knutsford Boulevard
Kingston 5
Jamaica, W.I.

Phone: +(876) 764-0815

Email: crew@iadb.org

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