Baguio officials air concern on water supply

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Monday, February 24, 2014


BAGUIO City officials are worried the continued extraction of underground water will soon reach its critical limit in this mountain resort.

Vice Mayor Daniel Fariñas aired his concern of water shortage in the city if the problem cannot be addressed immediately.

"The impending hot summer season coupled with the influx of visitors in the city will surely affect the water supply being distributed to the city's 128 barangays posing a major problem," Fariñas said.

Mayor Mauricio Domogan acknowledged a possible water shortage but revealed measures already being undertaken to address the problem.

"The city is in close coordination with Baguio Water District GM (general manager) Engr. Salvador Royeca who assured continued water supply for the city," Domogan said.

"He told me that they will be activating deep wells during the summer season to complement the supply of water for the city," he added.

A recent joint study by the World Wildlife Fund-BPI Foundation and the business community in the city showed Baguio City cannot sustain its growth economically without enough resources, particularly water.

Moreover, Domogan said, "Officials of Maynilad also called on me last week in line with their interest in partnering with the City Government and the BWD to develop a steady drinking water source for Baguio."

"They want to conduct a feasibility study in the city at their own expense and we can accommodate a Private Public Partnership (PPP) project with them,” he revealed.

Domogan added, "The Sto. Tomas watershed presently produces 5 percent of the city’s drinking water while 15 percent to 20 percent comes from the Buyog and Busol Watershed."

"Seventy-five percent of our water comes from underground and we cannot be assured of continuous supply if we go on extracting underground water. If we continue to extract water underground then we might create a vacuum that can affect the stability of the ground which might affect the surface," he said.

The mayor also said the provisions of the city's water code should also be studied to ascertain if it is still in consonance with the city's present water situation.

City Ordinance No. 13 series of 2007 or the Water Code of the city requires water permit applicants to secure clearances and requirements with the city government before they can conduct ground drilling activities.

It also imposes requirements for accreditation of water well drillers, annual verification of water sources and extractors and water distributors.

It was passed to address the lack of control over water extraction and other threats to the availability of water resources within the city.

The National Water Resources Board (NWRB) however can issue permits and can post water permit applications even if it does not pass through the city council but a provision in the city’s water code requires water applicants to secure permits and clearances from the City Water Resources Board (CWRB) and from the Baguio Water District (BWD).

"We really need to study the water code and see what is lacking and amend what needs to be amended," Domogan said.

"What is important is we control the extraction of underground water, we all know that underground aquifers take longer time to recharge and this could lead to serious problems if not regulated," he said.

"If an ordinance is needed then we have to pursue it," he said.

Presently, city residents and business establishments experience water rationing during the summer season, a clear indication that the city's source of water is slowly depleting.

Other barangays are supplied with water by schedule on a three times a week rotation while some rely on deep wells and private water deliveries.

Meantime, Domogan has ordered business establishments and residents to install rain harvesting facilities and tap rain water as an alternative water source since significant amount of rainfall is expected due to climate change.

Domogan also said coordinated talks with BLISTT mayors for an aggressive protection of watersheds has been emphasized to identify and protect future sources of potable water for BLISST. (Paul Rillorta)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on February 25, 2014.

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