Minister of Public Utilities, Marvin Gonzales MP, talks about WASA during Conversations with the Prime Minister, on Tuesday 8 March 2022. (Image courtesy Office of the Prime Minister)

Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales has outlined a plan and partnership with the Canadian authorities to bring Modulated Water Treatment plants into the country and alleviate some of the worst water woes.

Gonzales was the lone guest on stage during the Conversations with the Prime Minister, hosted by Dr Keith Rowley.

The State-run Water and Sewage Authority came under serious fire on Tuesday night and Gonzales blasted WASA for its consistent failures to deliver over the years, saying that there was “institutionalised corruption” taking place at WASA.

The Minister said that he has partnered with international expertise from Canada to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for a Modulated Water treatment plant.

“The Canadians, using modern technology can get us a modulated water plant that has the capacity to produce five million gallons,” he said.

He said that a “huge reservoir” in Central Trinidad has been identified that can produce five million gallons on a daily basis and would treat water issues in the central area.

“We can get, by October, five million gallons of water,” he said.

He said some 10 plants would ease the pressure for water in the country.

Gonzales said that WASA had not had a price increase in about 28 years and within two weeks would have a new price rate ready to submit to the Regulated Industries Commission (RIC).

He said that people were hesitant to pay an increased rate for the poor service but would only look at a rate increase when service is improved.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Minister of Public Utilities, Marvin Gonzales MP, during Conversations with the Prime Minister, on Tuesday 8 March 2022. (Image courtesy Office of the Prime Minister)

Gonzales said that there were “various levels of dysfunction” throughout WASA but said the main problem was that the organisation did nothing to increase its water resources even as the housing demand grew and added to the already overwhelmed system.

He said that WASA was in the business of producing water and distributing that water to homes, but in the last 30 years, WASA has not been identifying new water sources.

“So, whilst the HDC (Housing Development Corporation) and private housing developers were busy constructing homes all over Trinidad and Tobago and the population started growing all over T&T, the water production capacity was not being increased at the same time,” he said.

There was a growing demand on the limited resource that was coupled with declining production from WASA, Gonzales said.

He said WASA was not investing sufficiently in underground wells even though hydrological reports found Trinidad to be a “water-rich” country.

“We are just extracting 30 per cent of the available water, WASA has not been doing enough to expand its capacity,” he said.

In addition, Gonzales said that most of the WASA plants are currently producing under half of their capacity.

“You are not doing anything to increase your production, you have not leveraged on technology to measure the water that you are producing, so you have no idea as to the amount of water that you are producing, you don’t have an idea as to the amount of water that you are losing in your transmission system and whilst all of that dysfunction is taking place, demand continues to grow,” he said.

Gonzales said he started to doubt any advice that came from WASA.

“If you walk in there blindly, they will mislead you,” he said.

He said that areas served by the Tucker Valley booster stations responsible for getting water up to the hilly areas were completely not functioning due to a lack of preventative maintenance.

“And when they break down, they go to a store in St Joseph and stay there for weeks and months,” he said.

For that same period of time, people are without pipe-borne water.

Gonzales listed the number of water deposits in various areas of the country but said that WASA was not doing enough to access that water.