Deep well regulation asked

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014


THE abuse of ground water resources through deep well drilling and water extraction has prompted the Baguio Water District to ask the local government to regulate these activities in the city.

BWD general manager Engr. Salvador Royeca appeared before the City Council Monday in response to the proposed resolution of Councilor Fred Bagbagen for the water utility and the local government to regulate ground water extraction to protect the city’s slowly depleting water sources.

Royeca told members of the City Council that BWD does not have control over issuance of permits by the National Water Resources Board on deep wells thus affecting any regulation of water extraction in Baguio.

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The BWD official said the City Council resolution is a promising measure as they seek for the approval of the policy that would regulate private deep wells by provision of production water meters and the imposition of production assessment charges to private well owners.

"There should be the installation of production meters through the issuance of a business permit so that we have a control over them. If they will not allow BWD to install production meters then the LGU can prevent them from securing business permit," he said.

Royeca said on their part, the BWD will assist the city in the construction of production meters and also help in the collection of charges and remittance to the City Treasury.

He said prior to the issuance of business permits to the private commercial wells, water delivery and water refilling stations, a clearance from the BWD should be secured for the installation of production meter and showing of the permit issued by the NWRB for water extraction.

He also disclosed the declining ponding levels of deep well sources of water in Baguio which could be supported by data that can be collected from production meters of wells.

Among the causes of decline in underground water resources in the city are the reduced permeability of ground sources because most ground surfaces in Baguio are concretized and the decline of the water table could also be attributable to climate change, urbanization, encroachment into watersheds and proliferation of deep wells whether illegal or legal.

Despite their continued exploration of new water sources, he said constraints in the increasing water demands of the people are the depleting recharging rates of water sources.

From 2005 up to the present, 17 new production wells were drilled which increased production capacity of BWD by 22,000 cubic meters per day.

The current total production of the BWD according to the general manager has improved to 4,046 gallons per minute or 22,050 cubic meters per day.

With 70 percent or some 40 square kilometers of Baguio's land area already developed, only 30 percent or 17 square kilometers for pine trees, watersheds and grass lands it is no wonder that the city continues to face water shortages especially during the summer months.

He added the watersheds of the city are also in danger.

Of the total watershed area in Baguio, including Sto. Tomas in Tuba and Busol watershed which partly belongs in the jurisdiction of La Trinidad at 4,071 hectare, at least 2,000 hectares of this area are already denuded, occupied or are cultivated.

Latest data from the BWD showed they are able to service 120 of 128 barangays while other barangays have their own water systems, spring sources and private water deliveries.

BWD supplies 45,000 cubic meters per day for service connections that reach almost 37,000 as of January 2014 composed of 32,668 residential connections, 303 government institution connections, and 3,353 commercial water connections.

But despite this growing demand, the BWD official said they have improvement particularly in their reduction of systems loss or Non-Revenue Water that was reduced from 46 percent in 2014 to 30 percent in December 2014.

Programs to address water scarcity were also conducted such as plugging of illegal connections, immediate repair of leaks and repair of deteriorated pipelines through a grant from the Australian government.

Meanwhile, Councilor Peter Fianza said this measure if it gets approved in the City Council is a welcome development as "it hits two birds with a stone," that of regulating deep wells and also for generating additional revenue for the city.

Fianza also stressed the city could come up with water extraction rules together with the BWD to protect the city's water resources and as long as it does not conflict with existing laws and regulations of the National Water Resources Board.

BWD legal counsel Tarhata Manaois assured the council the measure will also complement existing laws and falls under the realm of the general welfare clause of the Local Government Code thus be helping and putting an end to rampant drilling.

Councilor Edison Bilog, meantime, sought clarifications from the BWD if the tie-up between business permit issuance and installation of production meters would result to rampant drilling which officials denied.

"It is better for us to determine the volume of their extraction than them extracting water without our knowledge… On top of business permit is the production cost assessment and fees," Royeca said.

The measure, according to the BWD official, after all, would help complete the heir master list of deep wells which will eventually guide them in determining the rate of abstraction.

"What should be our basis? The basis should be based on abstraction rate by deep wells. We already noticed the proliferation of deep wells is already uncontrolled in Baguio…If we could monitor abstraction, we can apply measures to control water drilling if it causes effects on our existing water resources," the BWD general manager added.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 05, 2014.

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