No pay, no water.
If consumers don't pay their water rate bill they'll be disconnected, says Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte.
Le Hunte gave this response to reporters in Parliament yesterday after United National Congress activist Devant Maharaj called for people who do not get water to boycott paying their water rate bills.
Maharaj said, "Under the People's Partnership government over 70 per cent of the population was receiving a regular supply of water. Citizens, particularly from Opposition-controlled areas, now complain bitterly about the lack of water and the supply in PNM areas.
"Since Government still continues to issue WASA bills to citizens who aren't receiving water in their taps, WASA has breached the contract, therefore, refrain from paying any WASA bill until they actually start receiving service which they are paying for."
However, Le Hunte said, "That (call) is irresponsible. The Government subsidises WASA to the tune of $ 1.8 billion. WASA's revenue is only $700 million. With an expenditure of $ 2.4 billion, if people don't pay their bills you're asking Government to subsidise WASA to a greater extent. (So) If people don't pay bills, they run the risk of being disconnected— and we're going to do that."
Le Hunte, who met with WASA yesterday, admitted that the number of people who receive a water supply 24/7 is now below 20 per cent, down from the normal level of 32 per cent.
He said those affected are not only in Opposition areas but also the East-West corridor, including Five Rivers and Arima. He said areas which were on the schedule are getting less than before due to the harsh dry season.
"Further reduction of supply in the dry season to areas which were already on schedule is normal but I admit in some areas we had to cut back a little more than we'd have usually cut back," he said.
But the minister added, "I don't think anyone could have believed 70 per cent of T&T was receiving water— that's an exaggerated figure. The real figure was more like 50 per cent in the wet period and during the dry season that falls to between 30 and 20 per cent.
"Maharaj's figures are wrong. We seem to be going through the current problem every nine years and we're almost back to the problematic (water) situation we had in 201o. Our dams are about 20 to 25 per cent below where they should have been on the yearly average. However, this wasn't unanticipated."
Le Hunte said WASA produces 240 million gallons of water and projects will raise this to 250 million gallons. He said it's a lot of water for 1.3 million people and the problem isn't supply but storage— where T&T is below standard-aged infrastructure and demand management issues.
Government and Opposition last night debated a motion in the Senate on the water situation after the Opposition called for an urgent debate.
- by Gail Alexander