WASA DESALINATION PLANT

30

I wrote these two letters circa 2002 which record just part of the WASA story.

I later verified with Dennis Pantin and his Team at UWI that even the Caroni Arena Dam was built not to service the needs of the public but to provide Indus­trial Water at Point Lisas. The same nonsense was done with re­gard to electricity for Industry…..which has resulted in an unused/excess supply of electricity in the country for which we the public pay.
WASA, T&TEC and many others are bastards and delin­quent children of the PNM which were born out of multiple illicit relationships with many pass­ing strangers…and from concep­tion we the public have had to bear all costs related thereto….with all of that up to ten years ago, there were asbestos water lines in places like Diego Martin and elsewhere…and it is likely that some are still there…Mr. Le
Hunte.
The Desal Plan was also built for the very same reason which meant that those Industrial Plants were receiving a far better quality of water for their cooling towers than we the public were getting in out taps.
As you can see this is all a PNM story and as was done with the Point Fortin Highway the UNC just piggy backed off it and milked it for all they could get.
As you know, the Point Fortin Highway was virtu­ally a done deal when the UNC came to power….the latter just milked it in whatever way they could.

The Editor,
All indications are that the country is being prepared for a hike in water rates rationalized recently by way of a calcula­tion, in simple math, intended to prove that there is a short fall in WASA’s revenues and the pub­lic must make up this shortfall.
The algebra of the equation however show a different pic­ture, one in which this shortfall has been caused by successive Governments committing the people of this country to “In­terim Operators” and providers of desalinated water on terms and conditions that has left us all with massive financial debt.
This all began when Gov­ernment awarded a contract to Severn Trent under an Interim Operating Arrangement (IOA) to, inter alia, provide Indus­trial Water and thereby free up a significant supply of potable water for domestic use (the now infamous Third Envelope that determined the choice of Pre­ferred Proposer for the IOA was essentially about Industrial wa­ter) For several reasons Severn Trent never provided the Indus­trial Water as contracted (some say they never intended to) al­though it was the main reason for the IOA award in their favour, and this left the country with an inadequate supply of water to pro­vide for the anticipated needs of Industry, most of which was for­eign owned and operated. Severn Trent and Wimpey therefore never delivered on what was the primary reason for the IOA. i.e. to provide a source of Industrial Water. Instead, WASA was left with increased debt, an increasing operational cost and an increasing demand for Industrial Water and consequently an inadequate sup­ply of potable water.
Government’s commitments to these Industrial users were such that they were the priority – not you and I, the public. In order therefore to satisfy the growing demand of this prioritized group it determined that desalinated water should be looked at as a quick and manageable way of meeting the urgent need for Industrial Water, or so it was rationalised.
The water gets somewhat murky here (pun intended) but the approach sold to the public was one in which the desalinated water would have been processed and sold to WASA at x and in turn this water sold to the Industrial users at x + y with the y amount, less a small deduction for han­dling, being profit accruing to WASA. If done this way, instead of letting the Industrial Users do their own desalination, it would have also meant that WASA kept its Industrial base of Customers which was, and still is, an invalu­able source of revenue.
The approach that was eventu­ally followed and which placed us, the public, in the bamboo was one in which a desalination plant, much larger than what was required to meet the demand for Industrial Water, was agreed to by Government/WASA. The lat­ter also agreed to purchase all the water not required by the indus­trial users at a price above that at which water was being sold to Domestic Users (WASA sells wa­ter to domestic users at a cheaper price than it does the same water to Industrial Users). Because of these arrangements and related expenditures, and other ineffi­ciencies, WASA experienced a significant increase in its opera­tional cost and the proposed rate increase to the public is to cover this increase. In effect we are all now being asked to pay for the blundering and corruption of suc­cessive Governments. The real tragedy in all of this is that it ap­pears there is no way out of this deal and we will have to keep paying for this desalinated water even if all our rivers begin to run free with potable water.
How could Government ex­pect the public to continue blind­ly trusting its judgment? Does Government really feel justified in asking the public to meet the cost for the supply of desalinated water, which is the reason being advanced for the proposed rate increase? Isn’t this story reason enough to insist on integrity, ac­countability, transparency and most importantly intelligence from our leaders? Are there not many, many more decisions like it?
The result of this wheeling, dealing and blundering is that the Industrial Users got their water and you and I are being called upon to pay for this and also pick up the tab for the wheeling, deal­ing and blundering of successive Governments.
There are two other factors rel­evant to the argument against any increases in water rates. The first relates to the leakages in the water transmission and distribution sys­tem that result in a loss of around forty five per cent of our supply. The second is the lack of an in­dependent regime that monitors and measures the performance and efficiency of WASA so as to assure the public that, inter alia, the folly does not persist and that leakages of money do not approximate that of water.
The comedy of errors de­scribed above straddled both the Parties currently on the scene with the same players still very much present and active and au­daciously telling the public that it now has to pay for their folly and/or corruption. Because of this neither has the moral au­thority to challenge the other so there will be no true represen­tation of the people’s interests from within Government or the Opposition on this issue.
Cabinet, in its esteemed wis­dom, made all the decisions that have led to the current cri­sis and I would say, and most would agree, that Cabinet must be made to find a way to get us out of this crisis in a manner that does not further burden the pub­lic. In other words, like we all have to, Cabinet must be made to accept responsibility for its actions.

Eugene A. Reynald,
Port of Spain

The Editor,
I have written on this matter before, but statements made at the currently sitting Joint Select Committee seem to be silent on very pertinent facts regarding why WASA is today bankrupt and still inefficient after the expen­diture of billions of dollars over the last few years. I am therefore constrained to again establish a record of the facts which many of us may not have known or have forgotten with the passage of time or, the relaxation of our vigilance.
There are two primary reasons that have resulted in the current state of WASA. The first is the fiasco that burdened the country and WASA with a company called Severn Trent which cost untold sums and left WASA with signifi­cant debt and little to show for it. Severn Trent was selected by way of an RFP process that had as its critical criterion Industrial Wa­ter for the Brighton La Brea In­dustrial Estate (BLIE). As we all know, BLIE never materialized and is only now, some 9 years lat­er, being worked on. Water for the people was not central to the Gov­ernment plan that delivered on Severn Trent but the people paid and today continue to do so for an arrangement which was really intended to provide water not for domestic but for industrial users that was eventually never needed.
The second of the primary rea­sons is the Desalination Plant which was supposed to be built by the Industries located at Point Li­sas in order to service their needs for; you guessed it, industrial wa­ter. The politicians of the day, for reasons we all know, decided to commit, for years to come, peo­ple’s money to this arrangement and, for the second time in some five short years, we of this coun­try were made to once again pay for what was an arrangement to provide water for industrial users. This, the Joint Select Commit­tee was told, has also burdened WASA with a significant and op­pressive long term financial com­mitment.
In both instances, the Politicians of the day took conscious deci­sions which, more than anything else in the last ten years, have contributed to the inefficiencies and financial woes of WASA. It is difficult therefore, if not impos­sible, to understand how some of those appearing before the committee are able to infer, that WASA’s domestic tariffs are too low when a disproportionate part of the monies spent on WASA have been obviously inefficiently directed, corruptly expended and used for the supply of water to non domestic users.
These are the facts and the Joint Select Committee will have wasted its time if it does not in­clude them in their findings so as to forestall what appear to be incipient rationalizations to have citizens again pay, by way of in­creased water rates, for the be­trayal, incompetence and corrup­tion of successive Governments.

Eugene A. Reynald,
Port of Spain