Tag Archives: water conservation

Water Wars in the Philippines

One of the most controversial issue our world faces today is the problem of utilization of water resources. It is an evident fact that water is one of the resources vital to human existence and has resulted to water wars. Countries along the Nile River particularly Egypt fight for control over the Nile River where 90 million of its people live . Further, water is susceptible to degradation and depletion.

Although almost two-thirds of the world’s surface is made up of water, only a small portion of this constitutes sources of potable water. At the onset of rapid urbanization and development, the proper management and distribution of water for varied uses becomes an immediate center of attention. This concern has caused different entities and groups to examine the present condition and to prescribe ways for management of some of the biggest water systems in the Philippines.

Small-scale water wars

People derive different uses from water sources. These uses include water for domestic use, irrigation, hydroelectric power generation and flood control systems.

Communities in the Philippines obtained their water supply from different sources such as rainfall, surface water resources, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and underground resources (Greenpeace, 2007). Some of the major water basins and water systems in the country include the Angat Reservoir, Laguna Lake, and Batangas City groundwater system.

However, events in the past and our condition provides a different image of water resource use in the country. Various governmental agencies currently share the magnitude of the work involved in gathering information and monitoring the water supply services in the country. These organizations include the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA, formerly NSO) and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), (NEDA, 2010).

An article written by Guillermo Tabios and Cristina David in 2002 specified the different issues and conflicts involved in the sustainable use of water resource in the some of the Philippines’ important water systems. In the 1970s, the country experienced the need to meet the increasing water demands of the consumers. The situation led to serious problems for planners and decision makers.

Provisions of the Republic Act 9275, otherwise known as the “Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004”, specified that trade-offs in water use may be imposed. However, the said provision is not efficiently carried in the entire country. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is the lead agency that implements RA 9275. Previous reports and cases supporting the claim of weak implementation by the government were also evident (as stated in the case between Bulacan Farmers and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System. Due to conflict of interests, changing the political landscape and weak justice system, resolution of cases that involves water use trade-offs are still being decided (as stated in the case between Bulacan farmers and MWSS).

water wars
A 21st-century water-use conflict among the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida in the US.

Another aspect that needs to be considered in this issue of water use is the physical system and operation of water systems. Planners and decision makers must be well-equipped with the required knowledge to relate the functions of the respective water systems relevant to its effects on the nearby ecosystems, surrounding communities, and different stakeholders. This point was significantly noted in the instance of the construction of Mangahan Floodway in Metro Manila. The Floodway was constructed to safeguard Metro Manila from floods. The floodway, however, caused flooding in the surrounding communities in the Taguig and Taytay area. This event goes to show that careful planning, especially those involving the construction of structures, should be carefully planned since these might also affect other neighboring areas.

Saltwater intrusion is also one issue that needs to be addressed. We all know that potable water for domestic use needs to be free of substances that might increase its salinity. Due to excessive pumping, groundwater aquifers and systems become prone to saltwater intrusion. This situation results when freshwater pressure can no longer repel that of saltwater, leading to intrusion. This occurrence increases the salinity level of water beyond the treatable condition. When this happens, costly processes must be carried out to treat water for domestic use. Nevertheless, not all government agencies and private companies in the country can afford to employ such process.

Another issue is the worsening effect of pollution on our water supply. Much of our water resources are being exposed to chemical and toxic substances that may lead to worse environmental and health problems. Water pollution due to poor sanitation and untreated wastewater contributes significantly to the degrading quality of our existing water supply. Results showed that polluted water may cause several health problems such as gastroenteritis, diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, dysentery, hepatitis, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (PEM, 2003).

Possible recommendations to prevent water wars

Ultimately, a greater portion of responsibility lies with the agencies of the government that manage the utilization of water resources. To prevent water wars, responsible government agencies should work together. Though each organization has different stakeholders that they need to cater, it is still best that they harmonize their respective schemes and equitably share our existing water resources.

Efficient monitoring of water quality and supply should also be carried out regularly. The conduct of researches and studies is highly recommended. With the results of these studies, the government, including the planners and decision makers, will be provided with the proper basis that may be used to review our existing laws about water resources use.

All of us should realize that water is a finite and scarce resource. Such can only be attained if we work hand-in-hand to preserve these resources and prevent water wars.

References:

(1) David, C and Tabios, G. (2002). Competing Uses of Water: The Cases of Angat Reservoir, Laguna Lake and Groundwater systems of Batangas City and Cebu City. Philippine Institute for Development Studies. 20, (6).

(2) Philippines, National Economic and Development Authority. (2010). Philippine Water Supply Sector Roadmap, 2nd Edition. Pasig City, Philippines.

(3) Greenpeace-Southeast Asia. (2007). State of Water in the Philippines. Quezon City, Philippines.

Cite this article as: Jeneferlyn Yap (November 8, 2016). Water Wars in the Philippines. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from http://simplyeducate.me/2016/11/08/water-wars/

Unconventional Solution to Water Scarcity in the Small Islands

Water scarcity in the small islands is a paramount problem that recurs yearly. Climate change appears to make this worse as rains no longer provide enough to replenish groundwater sources. Is there a technological solution to this problem? This article explores the issue in the light of personal experience.

One of the pressing issues of today’s modern world is the depletion of natural freshwater sources. This problem is especially true in small islands where people settled and gradually depleted the water reserves as the island’s population increases due to both in-migration and natural reproduction.

Water scarcity occurs when the carrying capacity, that is when water consumption exceeds the island’s capacity to replenish its store of water. Unless people living in the islands are well aware of this possibility, exceeding the island’s capacity to regenerate its freshwater sources is the eminent, expected result of too many people living in the island.

Solution to Water Scarcity in the Small Islands

A few days ago, this issue has come into play as I was one of those requested by a local government institution tasked to ensure sustainable development in the province. Together with stakeholders from island municipalities, we discussed the environmental concerns of people living in the islands. I was part of the sociocultural sector group that deliberated threats to resource sustainability in the islands.

One of the major concerns of the island communities is the lack of water particularly on those days when rains that replenish the groundwater sources are not available. Some of the people have adapted to this condition by designing structures to catch rain water and store these for use during the dry months.

alone in the island
Beneath the small island is a rich diversity of marine life, human artifacts, among others.

This approach seems to go well, but people complaining about water scarcity means that the issue still bogs them. For those who cannot afford to build large structures to keep them sufficiently supplied with freshwater, this is a real problem; except on those cases where an enterprising member of the population undertakes an unconventional solution that trickle down to the public. I describe this simple but working solution below.

Piped Fresh Water from Abundant Water Sources

Several months back, while searching for a place where our research team can take a bath in Bulawit, one of several islands in northern Palawan, I met an ice-manufacturing businessman. He has a considerable stock of freshwater in large tanks in his house despite the difficulty that other communities in the other islands experience.

We inquired a little about this maverick in the midst of freshwater scarcity, and we discovered that he figured out a simple solution to the perennial freshwater problem many people in the community encountered.

woman fills up container
A woman fills up a container with freshwater in Bulawit or New Colaylayan.

With an air of confidence, he explained to us that a few years back, he looked for a good source of freshwater in the adjoining islands and laid down PVC pipes underwater from that place to his house funding everything by himself!

He made a good business out of it. He supplied the freshwater needs of other people in the community for a small fee. He converted a problem into an opportunity. No wonder he’s the richest man in the island.

Is the Businessman’s Solution a Sustainable One?

If the businessman continues to run his water business for some time, chances are, the source of freshwater will get depleted as more people avail of piped water he draws out from the other island assuming natural increase in island population through time. However, if better technology becomes available before the water carrying capacity of the island is exceeded, such as the discovery of a low-cost desalination system or efficient water recycling system, freshwater availability should not be a problem.

Alternatively, natural, long-term remedies such as reforestation or watershed enhancement will help slow down water runoff and help increase the groundwater storage. Without these measures in place, situations such as that in Nangalao Island, will continue to persist.

If all else fails, the only long-term solution is for the people to leave the small islands and live in large islands or continents where freshwater abound.

© 2014 September 6 P. A. Regoniel