Developing sanitation systems to protect the water resources of Havana

The Rio Ariguanabo catchment area covers 300 square km in the province of Havana, to the west of the capital. The environmental conservation of this rural area, where nearly 90,000 people live, is vital. This is because the boundaries of the Ariguanabo basin practically coincide with those of the groundwater aquifer that supplies more than 280,000 inhabitants of the western districts of Havana. But a defective wastewater treatment plant and an incomplete piping system are menacing the quality of the water in the region, and therefore in part of the capital.

Humanitarian and Development

Province of Havana, Cuba

Dora Volpert-Boucher

€150,000 to the Board of Administration at 2010/03/15

Project leader

SIAAP (Syndicat interdépartemental d'assainissement de l'agglomération parisienne)

The systematic analyses carried out in Rio Ariguanabo reveal a significant increase in the bacteriological parameters (count of coliform bacteria).

To address this worrying situation, the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources of Cuba (I.N.R.H.) has developed a project to rehabilitate and develop the sanitation systems that exist in this area, but which are not functioning today.

Three steps to create an effective sanitation system

The solution proposed involves three steps. First, to overhaul the wastewater treatment plant of Béjucal, a small town of 26,000 inhabitants southwest of Havana. This plant, commissioned in 1968, treated the wastewater of the commune of Béjucal and then discharged it into Rio Govéa, a tributary of the Ariguanabo.
The plant was shut down in the 1990s after repeated breakdowns of the pumps, which were not repaired due to the lack of spare parts. The wastewater was then dumped directly into Rio Govéa, with practically no prior treatment. The civil work of the plant, steadily maintained, remains in good working order, but the laboratory has to be rebuilt and provided with analytical and measurement equipment. All the electromechanical facilities have to be replaced (build-up pumps, sludge pump, etc.).

The second step: organizing the wastewater collection at Las Margaritas.
This rural commune of 5,000 inhabitants, to the west of Havana, enjoys partial wastewater treatment via septic tanks and through gutters, practically open air, which pour directly into the Ariguanabo. A previous "governmental" program served to collect the wastewater from a district of 3,000 inhabitants, but the piping system installed remained unfinished. The project is slated to collect the wastewater of 2,000 inhabitants, once the pipe network has been completed and the pumping station equipped.

The final step: creating a network of real-time alert measurements.
This will automatically trigger the alarm on the basin to control the consequences of the flooding caused by exceptional metrological events. Also programmed is the creation of an automated data measurement and transmission system, which is necessary to guarantee the management and use of the water resources of the Ariguanabo basin.

A large scale project in the field of sanitation

Faced with the scale of the project, I.N.R.H. applied for technical and financial aid to SIAAP (Syndicat Interdépartemental d'Assainissement de l'Agglomération Parisienne), its partner for over ten years in the reconditioning and equipment of sanitation systems.

SIAAP and the Veolia Foundation together assume the financing of the project. Of an estimated total of €300,000, the Veolia Foundation has pledged to grant €150,000 over a minimum period of three years. The nonprofit Cuba Coopération, the operator of development projects in Cuba and a longtime partner of SIAAP, will supervise the implementation of the decisions of the donors in the field.

Missions of Veoliaforce volunteers to Cuba will help determine the costs of the Béjucal and Las Margaritas projects. The installation of measuring instruments and real-time data management demand further intensive studies.