It is a growing challenge to meet human needs by providing a source of clean and affordable water. This has become quite evident over the last few years and is a problem that needs to be solved as soon as possible. The increasing demand for clean water, population growth, climate change and water quality deterioration are some of the factors that contribute to the pressures for improved wastewater management.
Wastewater can often mean different things to different people. It generally comprises of a mixture of domestic wastewater from baths, sinks, washing machines, toilets and from industry. Additionally it will often contain rainwater runoff (storm water) from roads, roofs and other impermeable surfaces. Generally it is water that has been adversely affected in quality by anthropogenic or human influence and can encompass a wide range of potential contaminants and concentrations.
As concerned citizens, we cannot allow wastewater to be disposed of in any precarious manner that may be dangerous to human health or pose potentially damaging effects on the environment. Despite the fact that the environment is amazing in its ability to heal itself, there is still a limit to what it can do and how much it can tolerate and transform.
As Trinbagonians, we often enjoy bathing in clean beaches and pristine rivers with our family. It brings a feeling of family togetherness and happiness. In order for this to happen, it is important to have our wastewater treated before being released into the environment. This includes a combination of proper collection, treatment, discharge of wastewater and proper disposal of the resulting sludge. This will provide the possibility of clean water to be returned to the environment and so allow water to be used for various purposes including fisheries and family outings to the rivers and beaches. To assist with this, The Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) is responsible for the collection, transmission and disposal of wastewater in Trinidad and Tobago. It achieves this objective mainly through the Public Sewerage Systems in Port of Spain, San Fernando, Arima, Point Fortin and Scarborough Tobago.
It may often be questioned by many citizens why a lot of emphasis must be placed on treatment. We don’t like to encounter the scent of raw sewage as we enter our beautiful beaches or even the sight of oil spills covering our beautiful shores. Without proper treatment, the untreated wastewater can create many problems for public health, water resources, wildlife and ecosystem. Besides, being an eye-sore, it can also negatively impact the social and economic well-being of societies.
It has been documented that poor disposal practices can result in high Coliform counts in the coastal environment which can lead to health problems such as dysentery and typhoid fever. It can also affect the livelihood of the community, cause eutrophication (algal blooms) in bays and harbors that may result in death of many fish and aquatic organisms and even damage our coral reefs. In fact, untreated wastewater may cause significant damage to coral reefs which may strongly affect the employment opportunities for many individuals particularly related to coral reef fishing and tourism. This in turn may heavily impact the economy, especially in Tobago since it is highly reliant on tourism as it main form of economic gain. The coral reef is highly valuable and offers many services related to fisheries, tourism and shoreline protection. It was valued to contribute about $100 - $130 million to the national economy in Tobago (WRI 2006). Coral reef associated fisheries as a livelihood has also been estimated to contribute between US$18-$33 million per year. It must be noted that these were estimated as significant economic contributions to Tobago’s GDP which was $286 million in 2006. Hence this deterioration of the aquatic environment together with indiscriminate release of untreated wastewater has indeed become a serious issue.
At present, only 20% of domestic wastewater produced in Trinidad and Tobago is collected and from that only 5% of total domestic wastewater is treated and disposed of (WRI 2014). It was noted that in the Caribbean (although Trinidad and Tobago had the highest population access to centralized wastewater systems) only 30% of the population is sewered and serviced by the wastewater authority while 70% of the population is serviced by septic tanks, soakaways and pit latrines.
Based on the recent findings, many people have often questioned whether wastewater treatment is sufficient in Trinidad and Tobago. In 2004, the results of a survey (GIWA Regional Assessment for the Caribbean Small Island subsystem) indicated that wastewater treatment is often absent or insufficient in many Caribbean countries, including Trinidad and Tobago. Despite the fact that numerous efforts were made to reduce problems associated with wastewater, they have continued to escalate over the past few years.
Factors such as population growth, growth of the industrial sector and the inability of the Caribbean Governments to secure the expansion of sanitary sewerage system are most probably to blame for these problems. Inadequate funding seems to be a major hurdle for most Governments as they are unable to improve and expand the existing sanitary sewerage system. Despite the high cost, the great Mahatma Gandhi once stated that “Sanitation is more important that political independence and there is a need for champions of sanitation”. One of his major goals was always to suggest strategies to improve wastewater management in India and try to reduce the volume of untreated waste entering the rivers courses and coastal waters.
Over the years, the degradation of the aquatic environment as well as the discharge of untreated water has indeed become a serious concern nationally, regionally and internationally. While water is a valuable resource and brings several benefits, untreated wastewater can have serious impacts on public health, water resources, wild life and ecosystems in general. These factors can negatively impact both the social and economic aspect of society.
Globally treated wastewater offers many golden opportunities. While inadequate treatment and lack of recycling and resource approaches can also lead to lost opportunities, reuse and recycling of treated wastewater have proven to be beneficial. These include many applications such as irrigation of areas including public parks, playgrounds, ornamental landscape and golf courses. It can also be used for fire protection, air conditioning and even as boiler feed water or for toilet and urinal flushing in commercial and industrial buildings.
To address the challenges of wastewater, Trinidad and Tobago has developed policies, legislative tools and regulatory linkages to ensure that wastewater management is undertaken in a sustainable manner. Among them include the Water Pollution Rules 2001, Trade Effluent Standard, Water and Sewerage Act, National Environmental Policy, Specification for the Effluent from Industrial Processes Discharged into the Environment TTS 547:1998, Specification for the Liquid Effluent from Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plants into the Environment TTS 417: 1993 and Waterworks and Water Conservation Act Chapter 54:41 and Pesticides and Toxic Chemical Act: Act No. 4/1986. These rules in Trinidad and Tobago are enforced by a regulatory body namely the Environmental Management Authority.
As part of the regulatory requirements, companies in Trinidad and Tobago have been asked to voluntarily agree to discharge effluent in conformance with the Permissible Levels of the Water Pollution Rules. It can be quite an expensive, tedious, and sometimes a frustrating task to accomplish at times. Luckily there are providers such as the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) that can assist easily with these tasks and make the quality of life better.
With population explosion and growing industrial expansion, wastewater continues to enter our coastal and near shore environments untreated causing catastrophic and sometimes irreversible damage to our beautiful and fragile ecosystems. As concerned citizens, we need to ask ourselves if we are doing enough to protect our beautiful environment. After all “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
Over the past seven years handling the Water Pollution Permit (WPP) and concerns with pollutant concentration, CARIRI found that there was a need for interpretation of results and recommendations/solutions requested by clients. And this need prompted CARIRI to expand its services in the field of Effluent with the establishment of the Effluent Management Solutions (EMS) Unit.
Tiffany Krumins had difficulty giving medicine to a child with special needs. She decided that night to create a special medicine dropper that would make the administering of medicine to children easier. She used the recording device of a greeting card and constructed an elephant head in which she hid the dropper. Ava the Elephant was created. This idea has been converted into a million dollar business.
David Segal was only 28 years old when he began David´s Tea in Canada. His tea shop focusses on making tea more appealing to a larger number of people. He works with expert blenders to create new and unique flavours of tea. His flavours are based on trends in the restaurant and baking industry. Within 8 years of opening the first store, the company has been able to expand to 156 stores in Canada and 37 stores in United States.
In both cases above, the persons identified a need in the market and were able to develop a product to match that need. These products were simple and innovative. Innovative ideas can lead to million dollar businesses and ideas can come from any one of us. The capacity to innovate lies within all of us, yet most of us do not tap into this potential. This article seeks to provide some tips on how to generate great ideas.
1. Seek new ways of doing things
Successful ideas always meet customers´ needs. Hence the question then begs how do I identify the market needs that are not being currently served? Being able to identify these needs requires developing a new mindset. Innovative ideas come from persons who have cultivated a desire to always look for better ways to do things. Innovators do not accept the status quo but instead challenge it. Amazon´s founder decided that there was a better way to sell books. Uber was borne out of a desire to make public transportation faster and easier. Building our innovative capability requires each of us to train our minds to consistently seek new or better ways of doing things.
2. Combine unrelated ideas together
A good way to develop innovative ideas is to combine seemingly unrelated ideas or processes. Jorge Odon, an Argentinean car mechanic developed a new device to assist in the delivery of babies. Odon was inspired by looking at a YouTube video showing how to extract a loose cork from a wine bottle. He used this principle in building a device that could be used to remove a baby from the passageway during birth. These were two unrelated ideas that were used to develop an innovative solution. The Internet, social media and increased networking possibilities provide us with the capability to link unrelated ideas together in a way that has not been possible before. The ability to link unrelated ideas together is a skill that can only be developed through practice.
3. Develop a hunger for knowledge
Knowledge is power. This statement is becoming more and more relevant in the world we live in. You must be aware of trends in the market, new and emerging technologies, potential growth opportunities innovative developments and challenges. Developing a hunger for knowledge will help stimulate your innovative capability. Attending conferences or seminars in areas that are unrelated to your expertise or reading magazines or books in areas that are least familiar to you will help you see opportunities for innovation. Socializing outside your normal circles can stimulate exciting conversations and refreshing perspectives.
4. Do something that is fun and relaxing
Most experts agree that it is far easier to be creative when you are doing something that is fun and relaxing. Walt Disney's employees generated some of their best ideas by going for walks in the Disney World parks. Great ideas do not happen in a vaccuum. Step out of your comfort zone, explore and have fun while doing it!
5. Brainstorming exercises
On a specific problem or topic, take 10 minutes to brainstorm with a group of persons as many ideas as possible. Maybe at the end of the exercise, there are one or two of those ideas in the list that are worth pursuing. It is important to record or document the ideas and set up a plan for execution.
6. Sketch your ideas
It may be worthwhile to give yourself the opportunity to sketch your idea on paper or use easily accessible materials, for example, scotch tape, paper clips to demonstrate the idea in operation. After all, the shell of the first computer server ever made at Google by founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin was actually built from toy Lego blocks.
7. Seek constructive feedback
Innovative products or processes challenge the way we do things. Many of us did not imagine that we would become attached to our mobile phones and the many uses we have found for this device. In 1876, the chief engineer of the British Post Office stated ¨The Americans have need of the telephone but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.¨ This technology has transformed the way we communicate. Hence, innovators may be hesitant to seek feedback since there may be many who will not see the potential in their idea. However, because innovative ideas are new and untested, there is need for feedback. Feedback can help to craft the idea for greater acceptance in the market. Google, one of the leading innovative companies, uses feedback to iterate its products. When the company launched Chrome in 2008, it released an updated version every six weeks based on user feedback.
Innovation does not happen easily. It requires conscious effort to consistently seek new ways for improvement.
At CARIRI, our Idea Advisory Service (IAS) platform, which was adapted from the Danish Technological Institute Inventor Advisory service (IAS) provides persons with an opportunity to take their idea to market. The IAS team works with the applicant in assessing the novelty of the idea and advising on which intellectual property tool can be used to secure the idea, identifying and strengthening the benefits of the idea and evaluating market demand for the idea. Once proof of business has been established, we can assist in the development of a demonstration model (pretotype/minimum viable product) where necessary. There are two pathways to commercialization once proof of business has been achieved, the first being via licensing where the expertise of an existing company (market experience, distribution channels and manufacturing resources) can be exploited to commercialize the idea. The IAS Team can identify and network with potential licensees (local, regional or international companies) and negotiate licensing agreements. The inventor receives royalty payments or a percentage of the sales of the product generated by the company. The second pathway to commercialization is via business start-up. CARIRI offers a Business Hatchery Programme which is a three month programme that offers a full suite of workshop sessions, hands-on research and one-on-one business coaching sessions designed to train entrepreneurs on the fundamentals associated with running a business. There is no cost attached to the submission of your idea for screening and all ideas remain confidential as Non Disclosure Agreements are signed with all applicants.
To learn more about the IAS and to submit an idea for assessment, visit our website www.cariri.com or contact us at 299-0209 ext 2208-2212.