Within the halls of the BWD - at last-A A +A
Friday, August 30, 2013
OH, WE have water.
This was the assurance given me by Baguio Water District general manager Engr. Salvador Royeco.
But we have to supress demand, says he.
Basically, we have a gap on the demand and the supply, which is why we resort to distribution schedule. Supply management, we call it.
And we have to do valving and scaling to be able to reach the higher elevated barangays in the city.
Oh, again. But you know what I’m a spoiled consumer.
Why do you say that?
In Pacdal, you give us water everyday. And so everytime I open the faucet and no water, I whine. But I realized it can’t be this way always and so I’m taming my water usage and trying to educate my nephews on water conservation, too.
You’d better, he stressed. You’d better.
And then in that moment I knew it was a warning. One that we must all heed.
Baguio City remains to be the place in the whole country which gets the most rainfall. Data shows the Summer Capital gets as much as 750mm of rain per month during the rainy season. And for a person outside looking in, it would have been safe to assume we don’t have problems on water.
"[But] even if we have the highest amount of rainfall in the country if all our surfaces are paved it’s useless,” Royeca lamented.
This as he cited the continued encroachment in the city’s forest reserves and watersheds.
“The recharging rate of our underground water resources has been severely affected by the paved ground surface,” he pointed out.
Coupled with this is the climate shift as Baguio experiences less rainfall as rains have been concentrated on the southern part of the Philippines.
If this goes on, Royeca said the BWD will enforce earlier the “summer season water schedule.”
Expect then, for example, if you have water 6 hours a day during the rainy season, you will probably have 3 hours of water during the summers.
“Because we cannot also overpump our aquifers. Otherwise we are going to have a serious problem,” he said.
An eco-warrior, who wishes to remain unidentified, (They might accuse me of being aginlalaing), shared the same view.
“The city prides itself for being clean and green. But we go on to pave and pave our roads without much regard for the ill effects it has on our water resources,” the eco-warrior said.
No logic there, the warrior lamented.
Royeca said the city government is doing its share of protecting our water resources.
“The [City Council] passed the water code. Everything is already incorporated there. But then again, the National Water Resources Board follows the water code of the Philippines,” he said.
Here comes the confusion. So what code prevails? Even Royeca is at a loss.
“[The Baguio Water District] tried following the local water code but unfortunately for us, the NWRB does not honor it,” he revealed.
This as the BWD exec expressed his desire for the devolution of functions from the national water agency to the local water district, especially on the management of our underground water resources.
According to Royeca, the Baguio Water District is not responsible for the regulating, monitoring and issuing of permits for deep well applications.
“We are notified by the National Water Resources Board for any water permit application and we express our opposition especially if our resources are affected. But as far as the regulation of other private wells, it is solely the responsibility of the NWRB,” he said.
Truth is, even the BWD is required to file water permit applications with the national agency.
“I have already aired this predicament to concerned stakeholders. I believe there are functions of the NWRB which should be devolved to the local government. We know our problems, they don’t. Sa dami ba naman ng trabaho nila,” he reasoned.
But as far as local legislation is concerned, Royeca is satisfied. “[The city government] is doing its job.”
The warrior, on the other hand, is not.
“The national government came up with the National Greening Program and imposed it on all LGUs but failed to recognize existing local programs already geared towards reforestation,” warrior stressed.
And all of a sudden we see a flurry of activities “all geared towards protecting the environment.”
“And all of a sudden we see our legislators having a keen interest on attending environmental and water summits abroad, using taxpayers’ money. But they come back here with stories about the sights they saw. Never about the things they learned and not even bothering to translate this newly gained knowledge into policies,” the warrior pointed out.
The warrior cringes. Maybe in disgust.
Be quick or be dead
Royeca stressed the BWD recognizes the importance of protecting our existing water resources and focusing on delivering what is due their consumers whether or not hampered by national or local policies.
In the light of their duty, the BWD is cracking down on illegal connections or non-revenue water, as he called it.
“We were able to reduce our non-revenue water from 52 percent to 10 percent in Pula, in Sto. Tomas,” Royeca reported.
It’s a no brainer. Illegal connections thrive in areas where informal settlers thrive and in agricultural areas, intended for irrigation.
“Our main goal is to reduce our systems loss. I want to be one of the leaders in the management of the systems loss and we could do that,” he stressed.
The current systems loss of Baguio is pegged at 31 percent and BWD is targeting to cut this down to 25 percent.
“We have also completed several pipe laying projects along Irisan to be able to supply water to Quezon Hill, Dominican Hill, Queen of Angels and surrounding areas,” Royeca said as he added the BWD continues to look for additional water resources in the city.
This as Royeca expressed hope residents in the city protect and maintain the forest cover and protecting the river system.
“We have to reverse trends of land and waterways encroachment. If we don’t, then Baguio truly faces a big problem especially on its water resources. The reality is, the rapid urbanization of Baguio is taking its toll already,” he pointed out.
As for the eco-warrior and the many others in the tribe, they have started planting the seeds of their knowledge a long time ago and many have already reaped the rewards of this knowledge.
“Those who believe Baguio does not have a problem on water are seriously deranged. Turn on your faucet. If water doesn’t come out then that’s a problem. And this is the problem we’ve been trying to address all these years, tending quietly to our forest patches,” the warrior said.
Legacies. We all wish to leave one for the city to remember us by.
And it all starts with one. One drop of water is, after all, what it takes to cause a ripple.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 31, 2013.