Flood Early Warning System at Rio Cobre Watershed

The main challenges

Jamaica’s location, geology, hilly topography, narrow coastal plains and dense river network contribute to the island’s vulnerability to flooding. Given the frequency of flash floods, there have been efforts to promote the establishment of community flood early warning systems (FEWS) to reduce damage to property and livelihoods and save lives in the most vulnerable communities. Manually operated community FEWS have been installed on seven rivers, and an automated FEWS was installed on the Rio Cobre in St Catherine Parish. The Rio Cobre has the third largest watershed management unit in Jamaica, covering an estimated drainage area of 646 square kilometres. The flood monitoring and data transmission networks became however inoperable in 2015, because of lightning strikes.


The project was designed to help upgrade the FEWS for the Rio Cobre watershed, and to support the delivery of accurate and early notifications to key stakeholder groups and residents to reduce the loss of life and damage caused by flooding.

The Caribbean Development Bank oversaw management of the project, which was executed by the  Jamaica’s Water Resource Authority.

Stream gauge and terrain?? gauge stations were updated and connected to a central server for real-time data transmission. The upgraded system took advantage of solar renewable energy to enable continued data and information during extreme weather events, providing more timely information.

“This timeliness is what actually saves lives,” said Peter Clarke, Managing Director of the Water Resource Authority.

Project features

Year: 2017

Total cost of the project: €305 596

Implementing Agency: Water Resources Authority of Jamaica

Benefiting Zone: St Catherine Parish, Jamaica

Cooperation and technical assistance: Caribbean Development Bank

Funded by: The European Union through the Natural Disaster Risk Management Programme in the CARIFORUM.

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