Prospective candidates to sit in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago file nomination papers today as they make their official steps to seek the population’s votes in 41 constituencies across the country.

For citizens, election time brings hope that solutions to some of the most critical issues plaguing the country will be addressed, bringing tangible relief.

One such issue is the perennial water supply problem which, even during the rainy season, poses severe strains on the population as many citizens are unable to get a regular supply.

To compound matters, just yesterday on a tour of WASA’s Arena Reservoir, CEO Allan Poon King told the country that at this time of the year in 2019, the reservoir was close to 59% of capacity but as of yesterday it was only at 20 per cent capacity. Poon King himself appeared shocked as he said the last time the reservoir was at such low capacity was in 2010.

A similar situation exists at the other major reservoirs. That spells even worse news for consumers, many of whom do not get water for weeks at a time. It means WASA now has to implement stricter scheduling. How much worse it can be for consumers is yet to be seen but water rationing it seems is perennially WASA’s way of managing scarce resources.

It is alarming that every year the country’s water levels get lower and yet it seems new water sources are not being sought out. Admittedly, rainfall over the past year has been unusually low but surely there are other sources of water which can be accessed across the country?

In 2019, then Minister of Public Utilities Robert Le Hunte announced that Cabinet had approved a spend of $255 million for an exploration, development and rehabilitation programme for WASA to enhance the water supply. The programme, to have been carried out over fiscal 2019-2020, involved exploration, drilling and equipping new wells, rehabilitation of existing wells and replacement of high leakage pipelines. Some 19 wells were to have been rehabilitated and new wells were to have been drilled. That action plan would have given the country some hope.

Now, however, WASA is saying there will be further water rationing, where stricter schedules will be applied. However, their conclusion that by reducing water supplies to consumers the reservoirs will be filled by the end of the year makes no sense. How, pray tell, will that happen if alternative sources are not found?

WASA needs to get its act together on improving the water supply. They can start by fixing leaks across the country, ramping up well-rehabilitation and drilling programme, metering customers, cutting off the supply from illegal customers and, if money is the problem, collecting the $800 million-plus in revenues owed to the authority.

Without concerted action, the country will be in the same position year after year. It is hard to believe that in the 21st century, something so basic as a regular water supply continues to elude us.