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What is Drought?

Drought can be defined as a moisture deficiency that has serious adverse effects on a community usually by reducing food production or surface water supplies.

Drought can be highly destructive and it is now thought that climate change is fuelling a rise in the intensity and frequency of drought around the world. Drought is sometimes called a “creeping phenomenon” because it moves slowly but steadily into an entire region and lingering for long periods of time. To deal with drought effectively, it is crucial to determine when it started, how severe it is and when it is likely to end.

The long-term mean annual rainfall of Jamaica shows a pattern of two distinct wet months, October and May. The drier months are January, February, March and July. Of notably significance is that this pattern can vary annually. It is recognized that human activity could influence the global climate system through global warming and this could alter the rainfall patterns of tropical countries like Jamaica.


Learn More About Droughts

The Meteorological Service is responsible for monitoring, analyzing and archiving the rainfall records of Jamaica. Its Climate Branch maintains a rainfall network of nearly four hundred rain gauges and rainfall recorders located strategically across the island. From the information collected the values for the island’s drought Index are computed. This index is used to determine the onset, intensity, and end of a drought in Jamaica.

Drought conditions can affect specific sections of parishes or widespread over most of the island.

Types of Drought

Drought is defined as a long period of weather without rain. There are more precise definitions for specific types of drought. The most commonly used are:

A period when soil moisture is inadequate to meet the demands for crops to initiate and sustain plant growth. In areas experiencing drought, plant life is severely damaged.

A period of below-average or normal stream-flow and/or depleted reservoir storage. Hydrological drought occurs out of phase with meteorological and agricultural drought because it takes longer for the deficiencies to show up in lakes and streams.

A period of well-below average or normal precipitation (rainfall) that spans from a few months to a few years

Causes of Drought

There are several causes of drought:

Impacts of Drought

The impacts of drought can be economic, environmental or social:

Jamaica’s Drought Vulnerability

Jamaica is particularly vulnerable to the drought hazard because of the following reasons:

Protect Yourself From Droughts

While we can predict with some accuracy when rainfall is expected, we cannot create rainfall. It is therefore extremely important that we do not waste this precious commodity.

Periods of drought in Jamaica often result in severe water shortages due to inadequate rainfall. You can minimize the effect of drought if special attention is focused on water conservation.  

Have you noticed that a lot of our water goes down the drain needlessly?  You can make a difference by being conscious of the amount of water you use and look for ways to use less whenever you can.

  • To start you can look around for leaks and repair them immediately. Most leaks are easy to detect and easy to repair.
  • Use just a glassful of water to brush your teeth.
  • A typical shower uses five to 10 gallons of water per minute. Limit your shower to the time it takes to wet your body and to wash off the lather. Install shower heads or flow restrictors. They will cut the flow of water to about three gallons per minute. That is saving a lot of water and money too!
  • Make sure that the toilet you have is using the least amount of water possible per flush. Do not use the toilet as a trash can for paper and facial tissues.
  • If you wash dishes by hand do not leave the water running for rinsing. If you have two sinks fill one with soapy water and the other with water for rinsing.
  • Do not let the pipe run while washing dishes or vegetables. Just rinse them in a sink or a pan of clean water.
  • Using a hose to wash cars, driveways and sidewalks could waste gallons of water. It is best to do this from a pan or basin, if absolutely necessary. Remember that during periods of drought and water restrictions, washing of cars and watering of lawns should not take place. When you wash you car with a bucket of water and a rag it not only saves you money, but it ensures that there will be more water when you need it most.
  • You may also save the rinse water from your dishes and laundry for the watering of your lawn and plants.
  • Do not allow your children to play with pipes, hoses and sprinklers. This activity could waste hundreds of gallons of precious water.

Fresh clean drinking water is yours to use but not to waste. It is too valuable. Remember that a little effort and a little common sense will make a big difference.

Following these simple tips can save you thousands of litres every year.

During periods of drought, individuals will often have to store water for domestic purposes. It is important to use safe water during the drought periods to prevent diseases and maintain good health.

Safe water is treated with water. Treat water before it is used for:

  • Drinking
  • Washing fruits and vegetables
  • Making ice
  • Making drinks
  • Preparing food
  • Washing dishes & utensils

Water taken from the following sources must be treated:

  • Water trucks
  • Springs and rivers
  • Community tanks
  • Drums and catchments tanks


How to Make Water Safe Using Bleach

How to Make Water Safe By Boiling

Allow water to “boil up” for at least five minutes before removing from the fire. Cover and let cool.

Prevent contamination of the boiling water by:

  • Storing water in a clean covered container. The lid of the container should fit tightly to prevent mosquito breeding.
  • Using a clean container with a handle to “dig-up” the water from storage.

Do not use containers that were used to store harmful chemicals.