Investing in water tanks and pumps has cost citizens more than a billion dollars as almost all of Trinidad and Tobago suffers from an inadequate water supply especially rural areas.
The inadequate supply of water by WASA and water scheduling has meant that unlike developed countries, citizens have had to fork out thousands of dollars to buy tanks, collectively creating a billion dollar sector.
In fact, Bhagwansingh’s group marketing manager Baliram John told the Business Guardian that the sale of these items has always been good over the years, noting that someone building a home for the first time, just like the average homeowner, will have at least two tanks and a pump to start off with.
The average price for a 1,000 tank is $1,700 plus VAT but this can cost as much as $2,500 plus VAT depending on the hardware where it is bought.
A 400 gallon tank can cost around $900 plus VAT. The cheapest pump starts at $1,700 depending on its horsepower.
According to some homeowners the water supply is just not good enough hence a tank has become essential.
But this problem is nothing new.
“Without water you can do nothing, not even cook. My sister in Palo Seco has about nine tanks of different sizes. Some on a height, some of the ground because in the country water is always a problem for years and years,” one resident told the Sunday Business Guardian (SBG).
And overtime John explained, most homeowners would also invest in additional tanks to ensure they have a steady supply of water.
Further, he said shutdowns by the Desalination Company of Trinidad and Tobago (Desalcott) have added to the sales as in many areas people do not receive water seven days a week.
In fact, the average resident gets water less than three days a week.
“Many invest in more tanks because they said the water supply in not reliable enough,” John added.
Only last week WASA announced that customers in parts of Central Trinidad served by the Hermitage Booster Station are currently without a pipe borne water supply due to a defective pump at the facility.
Ongoing extensive repair works were expected to be completed days later.
Regarding commercial investments in tanks and pumps John said businesses would include such fixtures anyway when constructing to ensure reliability.
Checks with other hardware revealed that from 600-gallon water tanks all the way up to 1,000-gallon ones, hardware owners have been seeing a consistent flow of customers.
Doc’s Hardware in Diego Martin said from last September it has noticed more people buying more tanks.
So too has William H Scott which noted that more people have also been asking about tanks and pumps within recent times.
Sales Manager of the Electrical Industries Group (EIZ) Faiz Mohammed said the company has seen a 12 per cent increase in sales from 2020 to 2021.
EIZ is a wholesaler and its popular tanks have been the 1000 and the 400 gallons.
And for those homes that cannot afford sufficient tanks they have to rely on a truck born supply from WASA which is free once the homeowner is a registered customer. If not registered then $500 is normally the fee for tuck borne water from private suppliers.
And with price increase slapped on many goods, so too has the price of tanks increased.
According to John the raw materials like the pellets have gone up on the international market, forcing an increase in the cost of water tanks.
WASA making strides -Minister
While Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales has acknowledged T&T has a water problem he has assured that greater effort is being made to bring water to the people, particularly those most in need.
He said projects being rolled out by the Ministry of Public Utilities and WASA over the last four months would show “serious efforts being made to improve water supply across the country as well as the testimonials of so many customers who are now receiving water in their community after 20 and 30 years.”
According to Gonzales, some of these initiatives include Pitch Road Booster Refurbishment, Morvant (17,000) beneficiaries, Lower Mendez Drive Booster (15,000 beneficiaries), Manzanilla Booster (3,000 beneficiaries), Guaico/Tamana Booster (500 beneficiaries), Subadar Trace, Williamsville, EmBD Sites (3,000 beneficiaries) Upper Wharf Trace Booster (500 beneficiaries) and Brazil San Raphael Booster (3,000 beneficiaries).
“We have had some customers not having water in some cases for 40 and 50 years and they are now getting water for the very first time and we will accelerate this momentum in 2022 and 2023.
“We do acknowledge we have a lot of ground to cover because this water problem has been plaguing this country for far too long. There are some areas which will continue to struggle but we are working towards it,” Gonzales maintained.
He also admitted that there’s a water deficit in the country hence the reason for water scheduling.
“We have built a number of communities under HDC and private developments all over Trinidad and Tobago and what has not happened over the years is investments in improving and fixing the availability of water.
“That is the reason why you have water scheduling because you have to share and redistribute water to all those new communities and hence the reason why some communities get water three days a week, four days a week, two days a week and in some instances one day a week because you are trying to cut up the limited resources you have,” Gonzales explained.
So how will WASA improve its stock to meet the growing demand?
According to the minister in 2022 there will be a huge thrust to improve water production by enhancing the capacity of dams and reservoirs and going after ground water sources, thus reducing water scheduling.
“There will be no need to redistribute and to separate the limited resources. If you bring more water into the grid it means more people will have 24/7 water at the same time,” Gonzales said.
Additionally, he said production has also increased at Caroni water treatment plant and at Hollis dam.
Further, Gonzales said the ministry has begun collaboration with Heritage where a number of water wells from Petrotrin will be handed over to WASA which will be refurbished and be brought into operation to improve supply to communities South-West Trinidad.
And according to the minister purchasing of tanks and pumps at this time of the year is normal as citizens prepare for the dry season.
“Even in areas of 24/7 water supply, citizens buy tanks as a back up measure. In areas of 24/4 supply, citizens buy tanks to give themselves piece of mind in the event of disruptions to their supply,” he said.
But what is the environmental impact of water tanks? Is there a plastic recycling plan?
Gonzales said SWMCOL will be rolling out its recycling programme of which plastics will play a significant component.