FOR WEEKS now thousands have been without water in areas like Tableland, Caparo, Longdenville, complaints have flooded the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation, the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation, the Princes Town Regional Corporation, the Mayaro/Rio Claro Regional Corporation. How did we end up in this crisis?
Last weekend, WASA said customers in parts of south Trinidad serviced by the Navet Water Treatment Plant would experience supply disruptions. It also previously noted the unusually dry season, low reservoir levels, and the need to better conserve water.
Notwithstanding all these factors, WASA and the local government system should have been better prepared. This is more so given the advanced warning which authorities themselves have had. The comess surrounding the way the State supplies water tenders is not encouraging. Regional corporations regularly ask for allocations as large as $1 million to supply tenders.
The Princess Town Regional Corporation and the Mayaro/Rio Claro Regional Corporation were allocated $400,000 for this purpose. Documents submitted to a Parliament committee also suggest it can cost $181,000 to provide a temporary supply for just two weeks.
Yet this kind of spending is at best a wasteful leakage of Treasury funds and at worst a corruption that abuses WASA customers. Why should taxpayers, many of whom already pay water bills, be forced to double pay for water, either through the direct purchase of emergency relief or indirectly through state funding of corporation supply?
As for the drought and low reservoir levels, clearly water is flowing somewhere if people are accessing $500 trucks. Resources may well be scarce, but that is no reason for the State not to develop a more efficient system of distribution.
It is not acceptable, for instance, that the Mayaro/Rio Claro Regional Corporation has to do WASA’s job of providing water to 13 areas using one water tender. Surely WASA has the resources to help.
The lack of co-ordination between WASA and local government bodies is as inexplicable as it is distressing. Why can’t we get this right? The dry season happens every year.
Plugging leaks, addressing consumer behaviour, bolstering infrastructure, and rationing supply are all part of the equation. But equally important is having an over-arching plan that prevents situations like this one from developing. This perpetual water crisis can only be resolved if there is a bold over-arching vision that seeks to place priority on minimising the pain and disruption caused by lack of supply.
If only for the sake of public health, streamlining needs to occur. Wastage in local government systems must be plugged, yes, but alongside this WASA must put itself in a position where it can respond effectively to complaints when they arise. Our patience has dried up.