Water

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By Jun Ledesma

Sunbursts

Monday, July 14, 2014


NOT until I went on board the Davao City Water District have I realized how important our water resource is. Presently, I am attending a technical seminar for the board of water districts at UP Diliman. Last weekend, two days after I was sworn in, I made a cursory inspection of DCWD properties in upper Calinan, Tugbok, Mintal and then the two huge sumps in Matina. It was a learning process and understanding why and where wells are drilled and how and why reservoirs have to be constructed.

Along the way to learning, I found out that the water shortage (or the absence of it), which most of DCWD consumers experienced recently was not at all the fault of the water district. Unfortunately, since it was a case of shortage of water supply, DCWD got all the beating and some of this came from this writer. The main culprit actually was the Davao Light and Power Company. As it turned out, years back, DCWD signed a contract with Davao Light for an uninterrupted power supply in the major pumping stations in Dumoy area. It works very much like the uninterrupted power supply in hospitals. The contract did not come cheap. It looked like the power firm developed a sudden amnesia although something happened between the signing and the time we had this protracted power shutoff and neither the weather nor the insufficient Agus and Polangi supply has anything to do with it.

At the risk of causing some resentment from friends at Davao Light and therefore, my electricity cutoff when I fail to meet deadline to pay my bills, I am wont to tell what happened to be fair to DCWD where I now sit in the board. But it was understandable why the power supply contract seemed to skip management of the power firm. Following the movements in the upper echelon of Aboitiz power, the current management overlooked the energy supply contract. Add to that the efficiency of Davao Light that allowed us to enjoy sustained power and therefore extremely short power outage, the existence of the contract was virtually forgotten.

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If I were to believe DCWD Manager Edwin Regalado, he claimed that they too have to dig into their files to retrieve the contract since Davao Light insisted there was none. Good thing DCWD produced the hard file including the contract which was signed by the Davao Light top man Al Aboitiz and the Official Receipt issued.

So, there you are. On a personal note, all throughout the rotating brownout that hit the city, rendering most parts waterless I bought 10 huge five-gallon plastic containers. I still have three of these just in case. I don't know whom to claim my refund. Anyway, the consolation here is that henceforth there will be no more power brownouts in the pumping stations...so they say.

Still on DCWD, aside from migrating the billing system from manual delivery to e-bill, the water district is going to embark on mandatory clearing and cleaning of septic tanks in subdivisions that had sprouted around pumping stations. Septic tanks of houses within the 50-meter radius from the well will be periodically drained. This is to protect the aquifers from intrusions of contaminants. This is a positive move in the light of the ugly fact that some houses in the main aquifer of DCWD do not have sealed septic tanks.

To allay apprehensions of consumers however, Davao City water is still the best in the country and will remain so in that category. The big challenge now is how to address the growing demand on the heels of the growing population, investments and expanding communities and growth centers within Davao City. New wells had been drilled in Panakan and Cabantian areas for example but not all these yielded the same quality of water derived from Dumoy. In fact not all the wells drilled yielded water because the layers underneath are clayish and therefore impermeable. That's a considerable loss to DCWD. To prevent or reduce this loss I was made to understand that DCWD had contracted a team of professional hydrologists to conduct and identify viable aquifers in the entire area of Davao City. This too will now guide our city council and other agencies to delineate watersheds.

Water from Panakan and Cabantian wells is not as good as those from the other systems of DCWD but the good news is that the new wells that were recently drilled have yielded a comparatively better water quality than from the other wells previously commissioned. The water in the new well in Cabantian is rich in manganese and other elements that when this comes in contact with the atmosphere, the water color turns yellowish. As in Panakan, the water in Cabantian is potable but far from the taste and physical attributes of Dumoy water. Filtration will be done in Cabantian while the new wells in Panakan will be commissioned in due time. There's something more to look forward to. Bulk water supply sourced from Tamogan will address all the problems relating to volume, quality and pressure. But this one will take some time because of the enormity of the project.

In the technical seminar on water districts operations, which I attended, I arrived at a conclusion that Davao Consumers are extremely lucky for the enormous sources of water that we are gifted with compared to all the systems in the country and that includes the ones operating in Metro Manila. All we have to do is to take care of our recharge areas and watersheds so that from generation to generations sparkling and best tasting water will continue to be available and in abundance.

By the way, the main distribution pipe that spans Bankerohan river is expected to be completed in March 2015. By that time, a couple of the wells that were recently drilled will also be commissioned and will solve the problems of supply and pressure in the peripheral areas of the poblacion.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 15, 2014.

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