A MULTI-faceted plan is the only route to address water issues, Minister of Public Utilities Robert Le Hunte has said.
Current figures show one of WASA’s four dams is at half its average water level and another contains a third of the usual amount. The other two are also well below average levels.
But Le Hunte is confident if all plans work, the water situation will remain stable, even if this year’s rainfall doesn’t replenish reservoirs in time for next year’s dry season. He told Newsday his ministry will focus on addressing the issues of interconnectivity, supply, and demand.
This approach requires all hands on deck, he acknowledged, as “it’s not a situation that can be fixed by moving one particular bar.” The first phase of this plan is to work closely with WASA to reduce the number of major leaks by the end of 2019. “Our target is to bring that number down to 600 by December. That will require us to handle around 6,000 leaks between now and December, but we are working with WASA to ensure that this happens.” Another part of the plan is to increase the groundwater supply, by drilling “system-strategic” wells in certain areas, Le Hunte said.
The ministry is also looking to change a number of pipelines, specifically those with a high frequency of leaks. He said, “We have about 35-50 kilometres of pipes we have identified that we are also working on in helping to reduce the leakage in the system.”
Another focus is working with desalination companies; Desalination Company of Trinidad and Tobago, Limited (DesalcoTT) and Desalcott Ltd. to increase their level of production as a reliable back-up supplier. Until then the ministry will continue its conservation drive to encourage people to use less water and reduce the demand. Proper conservation of water is expected to help ease the pressure on the system, Le Hunte said. “WASA also has some interconnectivity issues which prevents us from moving water in areas where we have a fairly good supply to areas of poor supply.”
He said work is being done to increase the performance of several booster stations across TT and this will allow WASA to distribute water efficiently.
Climatologist Kaidar Kissoon told Newsday TT had a harsh dry season and Meteorological Office data showed the first days of the rainy season had been drier than usual. Kissoon said it is hoped later on in the season – September, October, November – more normal conditions will be seen.
“The only month that would be drier than normal, compared to the other two, is September. “The reason we are having these conditions is that we are having a large phenomenon that we call El Nino/La Nina. We moved from El Nino conditions to neutral conditions. When we get La Nina conditions we normally get more rainfall.”
La Nina is the cold phase of El Nino-Southern Oscillation – a recurring climate pattern – and El Nino is the warm phase. In El Nino, sea temperatures in the tropical eastern Pacific rise 0.5 degrees C above the long-term average and cause warmer weather. La Nina is declared when sea temperatures fall 3-5 degrees below average. When this happens cooler, drier than average weather is experienced in the tropical eastern Pacific.
These changes significantly affect the global weather and climate, ocean process and and disrupt normal weather patterns. In TT, October and November should have more normal rainfall. However, that doesn’t mean the normal rainfall will be enough to fill the reservoirs. The rainfall this season will be enough to reduce the impact of the last dry season.
A release from WASA earlier this week showed the Hollis and Navet Reservoirs had deficits in rainfall of 85.6 mm and 113.8 mm respectively, while levels at Arena and Hillsborough Reservoirs were consistent.”
As a result, people who live in Arima and D’Abadie as well as parts of Tableland, New Grant, Princes Town, and Mayaro (served by the Navet Water Treatment Plant) will continue to have a less regular pipe-borne water supply.
WASA said its main impounding reservoirs have not shown any significant improvement despite the heavy rainfalls recorded three months into the rainy season.
It said it was committed to supplying truck borne water when needed. The temporary water supply schedules, as well as the water use restrictions imposed in January, remain in effect until further notice.