Public Utilities Minister promises: Measures coming to reduce water wastage

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales – Angelo Marcelle

Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales says that plans are underway intended to minimise the wastage of water while ensuring a better quality of service to the public.

Gonzales made the remarks while responding to questions during a panel discussion at the first annual Caribbean Regional Conference on Water Loss at the Hilton Conference Centre, on Wednesday.

The conference featured policy-makers, academics, engineers and other experts from around the world to discuss water security and possible strategies to reduce water loss.

Responding to questions over the efficacy of TT’s water and wastewater management systems, Gonzales admitted that there were flaws in terms of leaks from aged infrastructure and illegal connections, but promised an improved system with the introduction of several measures.

He said since his appointment as minister in 2021, there were around 5000 reports of leak backlogs made to the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).

A leak backlog he said was a leak that was not repaired in 30 days.

He said the formation of a task force to “aggressively” repair and treat with leaks was part of a revamped effort to ensure a more regular supply of water.

“We expect to remove that backlog to somewhere in the region 800 by the end of this month therefore positioning the utility company to be able to respond to every report of leaks within a 24 to 48 hour period.

“Next month we will also be re-launching our leak repair app where customers and citizens will now be able to report leaks on that app, identify the GPS location of the leak, by uploading a photo, video, the address and what have you and have a command centre.

“Once that report enters into the system the necessary procedure will now be triggered to allow the leak repairs to respond within 24 to 48 hours.

“When I came in I never knew leaks contribuited to so much water being lost.

“I witnessed one leak that I reported as a minister and it took WASA almost a month to respond, so I can only imagine how difficult it is for people who make reports about leaks.”

He said outside of leakages one factor that also contributed to a loss in revenue for WASA was illegal water connections which would also be addressed.

Gonzales lamented that estimates suggested that somewhere between 40 to 50 per cent of water was a major challenge to the authority as it deprived citizens of water and the WASA of revenue.

“I say that because the loss of 40 to 50 per cent which is the equivalent of 100 Imperial Millions of Gallons per Day (IMGD) is split almost evenly between physuical and commercial leakages.

“This loss is further quantified in the vicinity of $287 million annually.

“This is not lunch money.

“This is $287 million that could be used to upgrade and replace the ageing infrastructure without recourse to additional government intervention and to reduce WASA’s reliance on state subvention for its existence.”

Referring to the recent signing of a loan agreement with the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) for US $315 million, Gonzales said he was optimistic that the cash injection would go a long way towards increasing the efficiency and capacity of the water supply system.

Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young also attended the conference and challenged participants to combine their experiences and technical expertise to come up with solutions for water loss.

He said the inclusion of partners in and out of the Caribbean would be valuable not only in exchanging ideas but also to strengthen their presence as policy-makers.

“As I speak of energy conferences around the world, I have been speaking with our Caricom comrades, the sooner we join together in tackling problems is the sooner we have a loud voice that will be listened to seriously throughout the rest of the world and that is no different to what we are doing here today.

“In that conversation at that level, I have also invited Latin America and our brothers and sisters in Africa to join us because you see we are often overlooked by the wealthy developed countries of the world and when you look at getting water to everybody it is no different.

“So what I am challenging you all today is to put your collective heads together, our brothers and sisters from the region let’s band together.

“If we put our heads collectively together and share the experiences and look into economies of how we will address the water issue problems in our respective territories I guarantee we will have a louder voice and will be more successful in what we do.”

The conference will resume on Thursday and end on Friday.