In the middle of the worst drought in Trinidad and Tobago since 1987, a truck belonging to the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) has been discovered pumping drinking water into a swimming pool in a private residence undergoing renovation in the upscale neighbourhood of Westmoorings.
WASA in a statement last night said the water was requested for "construction purposes," for a house it is leasing for its foreign CEO. Tipped off by a photograph sent by a resident of the La Riviera high-rise apartment, two Guardian journalists caught WASA employees pumping water into the pool located at Columbus Circle in Westmoorings on Thursday night. When the WASA employees realised that they were being photographed and filmed, they immediately unhinged the hose from the water wagon and drove off. One of the WASA employees was heard repeating the licence plate number of the Guardian. Less than five minutes later, a vanload of policemen arrived on the scene, with one saying that they had been told of two suspicious characters in the neighbourhood. Faced with the drought and rapidly-declining water levels in the nation's resevoirs, WASA has repeatedly appealed to the public to use less water in the last two months.
The authority has also criminalised the use of hoses to wash cars and water lawns and has reduced the regularity of supply to households across the nation. On Monday, WASA officials told a news conference that the country's water situation was approaching crisis levels.
The water levels in the Caroni Arena dam, which accounts for 35 per cent of the country's water supply, had fallen to 40 per cent, the Navet dam to 48, and both Hollis and Hillsborough to 50 per cent, according to the utility's corporate communications manager, Ellen Lewis. Lewis commended the public's support of WASA's water conservation programme, but said more efforts were needed to preserve reserves. Last night, the utility issued the following statement: "WASA is in the process of leasing the property?to use as accommodation for the foreign national who has been identified to fill the position of Chief Executive Officer following an extensive recruitment exercise.?Upon inquiries we learnt?the property is being renovated by the owner and that the water was requested for construction purposes." Told of WASA's explanation that a pool full of water was needed to renovate a house, one of the country's most experienced builders scoffed audibly and said: "For actual construction activity, you would need 15 to 20 gallons a day for the mortar for plastering. You would get water for the concrete from the readymix companies and there would be need for a small amount of water for drinking and washing up purpose. You would not need a pool full of water."
WASA CEO promises probe
Contacted last night, WASA's acting chief executive, Jim Lee Young, said it is against the utility's policy to provide water to fill a residential swimming pool. "I can categorically state that we will not supply water for use in a swimming pool. If a construction site requests water for construction purposes, and is a legitimate WASA customer, we will provide water for that."
Stressing that he had not seen the report on the issue on CNC3 last night, an angry Lee Young described the WASA truck providing water to a swimming pool as "an abuse of what we are trying to do. I feel very strongly about this. That is not on." He promised an investigation to get to the bottom of the matter.