WASA programme to provide 24/3 service in northwest Trinidad

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Finance Colm Imbert. Photo by Roger Jacob

The North West Water Supply Improvement Programme will provide residents in northwest Trinidad with a minimum 24/3 water supply schedule within the next 18 months. Acting Head of Water Projects at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) Shawn Salandy said 143,000 people will benefit from the initiative.

Speaking at the launch of the programme at the Government Campus Auditorium, Richmond Street, Port of Spain on Friday, Salandy said it was grounded in three main pillars.

“Pillar one is the optimisation of the water distribution network. This will involve mains replacement and repairs, changeout of high leakage mains and old and encrusted pipelines, refurbishment of booster stations and water treatment plants, and construction and refurbishment of distribution service reservoirs and storage tanks.

“Pillar two is increasing water production levels, with an emphasis on developing localised sources of water. This will be accomplished through the development of groundwater, refurbishment of existing wells, drilling of new wells, development of surface water sources, refurbishment and upgrade of existing intakes, construction of new intakes, and water treatment plants.”

He said pillar three is the establishment of a smart water network which will facilitate the remote monitoring of WASA’s transmission and distribution system to obtain real-time information on plant operations and service disruptions.

Salandy said the programme involved 53 projects in seven categories: development of eight production sources to give12.2 million gallons of water per day; 18 main replacement projects totalling 13.5 kilometres of pipeline; construction of two new booster stations and refurbishment of 19 more; refurbishment of two water treatment plants; an additional 300 gallons of storage; installation of 19 bulk meters at strategic locations throughout the network; and the automation of critical facilities in the northwest.

WASA acting operations director Shaira Ali said the northwest region is bounded by the highway in the east, Teteron/Chaguaramas in the West, Maracas/Blanchissuese in the north, and Sealots/Bamboo No 1 in the south.

She said some of the challenges faced by WASA included leaks from aged/obsolete pipes, an inability to effectively monitor and manage network performance and schedule compliance, vandalism and opposition from residents, an increase in planned and unplanned development, supply extremities on elevated areas, and aged asset infrastructure at water treatment facilities.

Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert said in his 30 years as an MP, the number one problem has been water. He said he used to receive calls at 9 pm on a Sunday evening from disgruntled constituents who had been without water for three weeks.

He said the northwest region had lots of hills and mountainous areas served by aging booster pipes, tanks and pipelines, and the system had never worked.

“I’m happy that a Public Utilities Minister has finally realised it’s time to pay attention to the water supply structure in northwest Trinidad. I am surprised to learn that northwest Trinidad starts at Mt Hope because I thought it began in Port of Spain. I totally support this project, I endorse it and I will ensure as finance minister that whatever funding is required will be provided for this project.”

Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland said the programme would affect the lives of many of his constituents in a positive way. He said he supported the initiative and would continue to do so.

Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales said the programme was the first of several to be developed and instituted throughout the country.

“Teams were formed in each area, and asked to come up with programmes, as we have to take into consideration the various nuances and challenges of every region. I expect to have the other plans for northeast, central, south, and Tobago in five days. I look forward to next month to roll out the other plans.

“We have the most leaks in the northwest region because of the terrain. In that region we also have $200 million owed to WASA by customers, and if I could get half that, I could do double the number of projects.”

Gonzales said the many programmes begun in the past were not targeted to deal with the multi-faceted problem faced by WASA. He said metering alone or pipeline repair alone would not solve the problem, and an investment in technology and automation was needed, along with reorganisation.