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Trinidad and Tobago
Environment and health
Trinidad and Tobago has historically enjoyed good drinking water quality. Increasing pollution from sewage, industrial effluents and agriculture are threatening the quality of drinking water while increasing treatment costs. The potential agricultural and industrial threats lie in the non-point or diffuse sources from pesticides and agrochemicals, from oil production, refining and toxic chemicals, inclusive of heavy metals.
The quality of the surface water is deteriorating in many places, as evidenced by high levels of biological oxygen demand, bacterial content, turbidity and the presence of chemical pollutants in rivers. The main threats are uncontrolled point waste discharges, in particular from industries and domestic sources, as well as the high level of erosion in the upper catchment of the watercourses. Pollution of surface water not only affects the production of drinking water, but also the ability of the rivers to provide productive habitats for terrestrial and aquatic species.
Most aquifers, in the absence of thick overlying clay layers, are vulnerable to contamination. Although there has been no recent major incident of groundwater contamination, intermittent high levels of nitrates were detected in three sub-aquifers of the Northern Gravel System. Another survey has detected the presence of trihalomethanes, BTEX (Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, Xylene), lead, and MTBE (Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether) in the groundwater along the East-West Corridor. Although the levels pose no immediate danger, this indicates that there is a trend towards increasing health risks, which should be monitored, halted or preferably reversed.
Another serious concern is saltwater intrusion due to over-abstraction in coastal aquifers.
Trinidad and Tobago, as other Caribbean islands, is highly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters such as cyclones, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and storm surges. The islands are also susceptible to floods, droughts and sea-level rise. The regional belt located between the Northern Range and the Central Range of Trinidad, often referred to as the Caroni Basin, is considered most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise (WRMU, 2005; WRA, 2001).