Karl and Pat were honoured to recently attend the WaterAid Australia supporters’ trip to Timor Leste. It was insightful to see the differences between the water cycles in Australia and a country with minimal water infrastructure and supporting resources. The group experienced first hand the processes behind local communities’ water journeys, from the raw water source and catchment, through to the storage and transfer to municipal water treatment plants and onto distribution.
Due to minimal infrastructure supporting raw water treatment in the majority of Timor Leste’s rural areas, communities essentially collect water as they need it. The group saw the benefits provided through the installation of a simple pumping system, enabling water to be pumped to a storage tank, removing the need for locals to walk up and down a steep track each day.
In both urban and rural areas, sewerage retic systems or treatment facilities are limited with basic septic arrangements/systems being used. This has a measurable flow on effect to local waterways and contributes to the general ground contamination which can also inhibit communities’ ability to grow food. WaterAid’s WASH initiatives show how important it is to also educate communities on the benefits of clean water, sanitation and hygiene practices in future proofing their lives for the better. Through the installation of toilets and sanitary facilities, schools are seeing an increased number of girls attending, along with fewer sick days being taken due to hygiene related illnesses in children.
It was inspiring to see the potential opportunities for communities who will benefit from improved sewer catchment, transfer, and treatment infrastructure. Engaging with the WaterAid team on the ground in Timor Leste and members of the communities visited, created further awareness around the need to consider the local critical labour skills and operator control resources available to manage and operate these assets going forward.
In Australia, we share many of the same challenges around water quality management, operations and maintenance, and have the knowledge to support the people of Timor Leste in creating a more sustainable water life cycle journey. It is further evidence of how WaterAid and the wider water industry can work together, sharing learnings, solutions and technical experience to assist in moving the needle for the water future of these close Australian neighbours.