WASA plans to work on water shortage

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

WASA’s chief executive Kelvin Romain looks out at the Hollis Reservoir, Valencia, on Sunday. – Ayanna Kinsale

The Water and Sewerage Authority’s acting CEO Kelvin Romain says it has short, medium and long-term plans address water shortages being experienced by communities in the country.

He attributed the shortages to climate change and decreased rainfall.

The authority issued a media release on Saturday which advised customers in northeast Trinidad served by the Hollis Water Treatment Plant that temporary water amended water-supply schedules were implemented in areas served by the plant.

The release also said it had become necessary,in order to prudently manage operations at the reservoir, which currently stood at 43 per cent capacity, while the long-term average was usually 74 per cent.

The plant would normally produce 8.4 million gallons of water per day, but at present  was producing 5.7 million gallons.

“In view of steadily increasing deficits in rainfall at the Hollis catchment, the authority has instituted management protocols for the Hollis Reservoir, which includes the implementation of temporary amended water supply schedules,” it said.

This also comes after Cedros residents protested at the Granville Water Treatment Plant on Saturday.

At a press conference at Hollis Reservoir, Valencia on Sunday, Romain said climate change is global, affects everyone and TT was not immune to it.

Romain said the reservoir levels were low.

“At this point in time, it is 43 per cent. What is expected, our long-term average, is 73 per cent. As a result of these low levels we have to do some resource management and curtailment, unfortunately. But that is so we can preserve what we have.”

That plant produces 8.4 million gallons but was now only producing 5.5 million gallons, which left the authority with a deficit of 2.9 million gallons, he said.

“ To put it into perspective, every million gallon is about 2,500 households it can affect. So we have to develop strategies to deal with that shortfall,” Romain said.

He said in the short-term the authority was tightening its system, was constantly on a leak drive and recently installed bulk meters to manage its systems.

It was also taking a proactive approach to truckborne water supply andwas blitzing hard-hit areas to provide a supply of water.

The customers served with the Hollis supply were “ring-fenced” and sent text messages about amended schedules.

Romain also said early this week, there would be bulletins on the authority’s website specific to hard-hit areas.

The authority had also started mobilising to being drilling three wells which would add additional supply to the system and create “resilience and sustainability by interconnecting some of its transmission systems,” he said.

Romain said the authority empathised with its customers and understood that water was life.

“Even when the schedules go off, people protest. And we have short, medium and long-term strategies. I could assure the population, we are implementing and we are not just talking.”

Romain said the authority knew the hard-hit areas and they were usually those at the extreme points of the system.

Saying that the authority needed to provide for sustainability and resilience as well as have some redundancy as well, Romain said desalinated water provided the perfect form of resilience.

“No matter dry or wet season, we always have seawater. That is a form of resilience. What you would see in the near future would be some modular desalination plants throughout the perimeters of the country. And those are the areas that are hard hit, namely Icacos, Morgua, Mayaro, Guayaguayare.”

When asked about the cost of desalination plants, Romain said there was new technology which made it cost-effective.

“The driving factor for cost in desalination plants is energy, and now we have solar energy. We could tap into renewable energies to fuel our desalination plant.”

The reservoir serviced approximately 50,000 people and, directly or indirectly, all were affected, he said.

He also spoke to demand management (people’s use of water supply) and the need for change

The authority hopes stakeholders and citizens listened to its pleas about the environment and longevity, he said.

Romain said having a consistent water supply was part of conservation and longevity.

“You can’t live without water. We want to live, so we need to conserve so that we will have water for the future for our children,” he added.

WASA was actively looking for people who abused water and promised that the public would see something in the near future about it, Romain said. He said there were no restrictions right now but the authority was expected to have some, especially as TT approaches its dry season.

Asked if there would be fines to address water wastage, Romain said legislation would have to be revised for there to be fines, but it was a consideration.

In first-world countries, people were fined heavily for wasting water, he added.

The WASA team was always looking at water conservation and attended conferences etc that spoke to the issue, he said.

He said added a study showed households that were not metered used more water.

“By extension, if you have a leak in your house, we experience it because you don’t have a meter there.”

Romain said when the authority did its widespread calculations on a macro scale annually and spoke about physical losses, it was attributed to losses in homes as well because there was not a meter separating those losses.

He said metering was extremely important not just for demand management but to also manage the system.

Speaking to protest action by Cedros residents, Romain said the authority empathised with any customer who was angry about not receiving a supply, but what was happening in Cedros was that the authority was shifting some resources to harder-hit areas like Icacos.

He said Granville received a 24/7 supply and last week Wednesday, WASA cut back the supply to send more water to Icacos. Icacos was expected to receive water on Sunday morning into the afternoon.

“Any shift in schedule, some people get upset and protest, unfortunately. But we do empathise with anybody who has no water.”

Gonzales: Politicians politicise water woes

Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales says some politicians politicise water problems to make themselves politically relevant.

Speaking to the water issue, Gonzales said water was a sensitive issue anywhere around the world and in most developed countries people would see and hear of protests and issues affecting water utility companies and their ability to provide a reliable supply of water.

This was especially so as the world was going through and feeling the impact of climate change, he said.

“The issue of water will always be a contentious one and one that politicians would see as an opportunity to make themselves relevant,” Gonzales said.

TT was not different from any other country that was grappling with the water shortage, he said.

Gonzales said what TT has not done over the years was tackle the issue from a wastage perspective.

“By all means, TT is not a water-scarce country. TT is water-rich. WASA produces quite a large volume of water on a daily basis when one compares the population in TT.”Gonzales said it was curious that despite WASA producing large volumes of water, there were still communities, especially those on the extremities, not getting water.

Gonzales said there were areas where there was a reliable supply of water and high consumption.

He added there were people with swimming pools and other infrastructure in their homes that consume large volumes of water, often to the detriment of consumers who live on extremities.

He said he was happy because the Government recognised that the water issue should not be put on the back burner but rather on the front burner ,and that was the reason the Government signed an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan last year that would assist in funding the water sector to improve the supply of water all over TT.

Government is now moving full speed ahead into the procurement cycle to start major water-improvement activities around the country, such as refurbishing water treatment plants, including Hollis, Navet, North Oropouche, Freeport; constructing two water treatment plants in Santa Cruz and Goldsborough, Tobago; drilling new wells ;and identifying other areas on the country’s extremities like Icacos, Moruga, Mayaro that were earmarked for significant investments to improve the supply of water, he added.

Next year promises to be a very active year in the water sector, Gonzales said.

Asked if there would be legislative change to address water wastage, Gonzales said the only way to do so is through universal metering.

“That is the only way you can have a non-revenue water programme being practised and implemented in the country.”The more water you produce, is more people waste.

“Yes, we are going to be producing more water in areas where there is a shortage, but it is not the end of the programme. You have to look at the appropriate time of metering customers at the various levels, and that is when consumers at the domestic, commercial, industrial levels would be more conscious of their consumption and usage of water.”

If the consumer did not get the supply, then the meter would confirm that and the individual would not have to pay for it, he said.

He said universal metering was an equitable system and, at some point in time, given climate change’s impact, TT would have to look at the issue.