Trinidad and Tobago has achieved almost universal coverage of potable water. According to the 2015 UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Program, 95% of the population uses an improved drinking water source (95% in urban areas and 95% in rural areas). In addition, 92% of the population uses improved sanitation facilities referring to flush toilets. Despite these improvements, the wastewater and water services face institutional, operational, maintenance and financial challenges.
According to the Water and Sewerage Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (WASA), only 30% of the population is connected to a wastewater collection system (20% serviced by WASA and 10% by private entities). The remainder of the population has on-site sanitation solutions serviced by septic tanks and pit latrines. Much of the wastewater collected is inadequately treated due to aged and underperforming treatment plants. Below-quality-standard effluents from malfunctioning facilities are often discharged into water courses or upstream of water intakes, posing health and environmental risks and increasing the costs of potable water treatment.
To address these challenges, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is assisting the country in improving the existing wastewater management program and services in the Malaber and San Fernando catchments. The measures include support for the Wastewater Rehabilitation Program, the implementation of institutional and policy reforms, and compliance with IDB Environmental and Social Safeguards.
Wastewater Environmental Education Campaign
Critical to the improvement of wastewater services in Trinidad and Tobago is engaging with local residents and educating them on the importance of wastewater and the roles they can play to protect the environment. To that end, WASA is executing an educational and behavior change communication program to bring awareness on wastewater for young people.
The Wastewater Environmental Education Campaign was developed between a team from wastewater projects led by Denise Lee Sing Pereira, Head Wastewater Projects, and Daniel Plenty, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications. The campaign is in its first phase, which is the Primary School Poster competition, targeting youths in the age bracket 7 to 12 years as well as schools located within the Malabar and San Fernando wastewater catchments. Since its launch at the beginning of the September 2016 school term, teams comprising members of staff from Wastewater Projects and Corporate Communications Departments have visited over 40 primary schools to share information about the competition and to educate the children about wastewater.
The presentations focused on topics such as:
- What is wastewater?
- Where does wastewater come from?
- How does wastewater affect our lives?
- Septic tank systems and the pollution issues associated with it; as well as the new wastewater systems under construction in the respective catchments.
Feedback from students and teachers has been overwhelming, as the teams were flooded with requests from students ready to register for the competition.
Phase 1 of the campaign will culminate in November 2016, with a prize giving ceremony that will award the creators of the top posters that reflect innovation, creativity, originality, visual appeal and relevance to the wastewater theme.
Phase 2 of the campaign is a spoken word competition that will be launched in January 2017, targeting students from secondary schools in the age bracket 13 to 19 years located within the Malabar and San Fernando catchments.
Wastewater treatment plants have a positive impact to the rivers and surrounding environment through the proper collection, treatment and disposal of wastewater, and will decrease waterborne diseases, safeguard public health and improve the overall quality of life of local residents. The Wastewater Environmental Education Campaign will raise awareness of these positive impacts and contribute to improve the quality of life for the people of Trinidad and Tobago.