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Wednesday 29 January 2020
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Editorial

Managing water from the heavens

Warning that reservoirs are still very low last week, the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) called on the public not to waste water.

There is no disputing the authority’s announcement that the reservoirs are less than half-full or that rainfall patterns have not served to refill them in any substantial way. But there is also no denying the reality that while the reservoirs have been hit by significant shortfalls in rainfall, there has been an abundance elsewhere, with floods in South Quay in Port of Spain, in parts of Trincity and around San Fernando since the onset of what WASA describes as a “drier than normal wet season.”

The authority has promised to deliver truck-borne supplies to areas that are receiving an irregular pipe-borne supply but has articulated no plan to comprehensively investigate what might well prove to be a shift in weather patterns as well as drainage routes that are affecting our water collection systems.

WASA cannot only consider itself a manager of water from the heavens. It must, in an era of weather changes in response to global warming, implement systems that capture water where it is to be found. Compounding the problems with water supply and reserve are the authority’s continuing inability to address the millions of gallons of potable water that leak out of its distribution systems. For every towering geyser of wasted water like the one seen by thousands of commuters on the Beetham Highway in December 2018, there are many more that quietly leak even more water daily, out of sight buried under streets or in remote locations.

In August, tenants at 66-68 Nelson Street went public about their five-month loss of running water at their apartments and the inability of either the HDC or WASA to address their concerns.

The authority eventually confessed that the cause was a corroded water line.

Despite many such incidents, WASA seems unable to apply basic principles of science to get ahead of its problems with leaks. It does not seem to have considered community water meters to chart water use in more fine-grained detail or implemented more widespread systems to continuously evaluate water pressure to monitor the efficiency of its lines after they leave distribution centres.

Until it knows exactly how much unaccounted for water leaves its lines and when and where it is happening, the authority seems doomed to forever chase and patch leaks, losing vast quantities of the nation’s water supply as it does so.

WASA cannot act as if water management is out of its control. This is a matter for applied science, and it demands the political will to make it happen.

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