Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Monitoring our waters

WATER consumption in Davao City has risen to 320 million liters per day in 2019, according to the Davao City Water District (DCWD).

This was attributed to the increasing number of commercial establishments, hotel industries, along with the influx of laundry shops and carwashes.

As the city progresses, so thus the need for water, a basic human necessity declared by the United Nations (UN).

Recently, DCWD and Apo Agua Infrastructura Inc. a consortium of JV Angeles Construction Corporation (JCACC) and Aboitiz Ventures, breaks ground for Davao City Bulk Water Supply Project (DCBWSP) in Barangay Gumalang in Baguio District in 2018.

DCBWSP, a P12-billion project, is a strategic infrastructure initiative that will shift the dependence of Davao City's main water supply from groundwater wells to the more sustainable surface water from Tamugan River.

However, Tamugan-Panigan River, Davao’s next water source, is facing serious environmental concerns.

Water monitoring

In celebration of the World Water Day, Interface Development Interventions (Idis), together with the environmental volunteers of Bantayo Aweg and Bantay Bukid led the community-based water monitoring in Brgy. Tawantawan, Baguio District, last March 23.

Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) representatives, science teachers, and members of the media were invited during the water monitoring that is done monthly.

Bantayo Aweg, a local community-based organization that monitors the condition and quality of these waters, demonstrated on-site methods tools that are being used in monitoring the quality of the water.

The volunteer monitoring group, facilitated by Idis, monitors eight parameters consisting to monitor the river’s quality. These are stream flow discharge, temperature, color, pH level, turbidity, nitrates, and macro-invertebrate sampling; collected and assessed on-site.

Idis community organizer Rey Anthony Sapid said the environmental group saw the need for a watershed monitoring team.

“One of the main objectives of the monitoring is to look out for the Panigan-Tamugan river, if there are any presence of harmful chemicals or any objects that might affect the quality of the water,” Sapid said.

He said the lack of manpower to monitor the area is a huge hindrance to their water monitoring activities.

To address this problem, Bantay Bukid, a deputized environmental volunteer by the city government, will now also be trained to assist them.

Sapid said the efforts of both groups are a huge help in getting accurate data that is being presented to the local government unit, through the Watershed Management Council (WMC).

Water quality results

Both Panigan and Tamugan rivers were found to have good and normal levels of dissolved oxygen at 6 milligrams per liter (mg/L) and nitrates of 0.1 mg/L, along with pH value or acidity level of 7 in its neutral range.

However, Idis research specialist Lemuel Manalo said the result would vary; hence the need for continuous monitoring.

“As to the question if it can be drank directly, it depends on your body resistance. Because our study limits further analyses on microbiological-bacterial, chemical such as heavy metals and pesticides that might have contaminated the quality of water,” Manalo said.

He also said their Water Quality Management Areas (WQMA), a specialized monitoring group of DENR, have not included these watersheds as their sampling stations, in which there are insufficient public data on these parameters.

Mercury detection?

In 2018, Idis also conducted a water monitoring activity in the river, wherein the group initially detected presence of mercury in the water, a parameter that does not surpass the water quality standards of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2016-08.

Based on DENR’s measured standards, an amount of 0.001 mg/L mercury is considered safe. However, results show that the Panigan area has a huge amount of detected mercury with 0.009 mg/L, while the Tamugan-Kidale portion has 0.003 mg/L, and Tamugan Junction with 0.002

Results also show a high presence of fecal coliform with 160,000 most probable number (MPN)/100ml, a far out from the 1.1 MPN/100ml set by DENR.

However, Manalo said this does not affirm that the water is not suitable for drinking or potable, as it needs to be addressed through a longitudinal or long-term monitoring and assessment to justify physical conditions and weather.

He said that based on the group’s history research, the area used to have a presence of small scale mining.

“The presence of mercury is not easy to remove, since it’s a heavy metal, its heavy molecule cannot be easily degraded due to its heavy atomic weight,” Manalo said.

He also revealed that DCWD does not have parameters in detecting mercury. Although Apo Agua pledged to review their data, with the ongoing construction of the bulk water project, a mercury detecting facility has yet to be materialized.

With this, he said the monitoring samples and initial results are being shipped to Manila for further studies and recommendations.

“There is a need for strategic methods to eliminate heavy metal. We need technology for that,” Manalo said.

He said this should worry the consumers.

“Water service providers need to be transparent to their consumers, since they are thinking that the water they are drinking is safe. That is why we are calling for a real time data from Apo and DCWD for possible water monitoring information board, same as the air quality monitoring, to make the public aware,” Manalo said.

Youth participation in water monitoring

With the 10 volunteers from Bantayo Aweg, which are not enough to monitor the whole Panigan-Tamugan river, Sapid hopes that the recent water monitoring activity would entice more youths to take part in protecting the watershed.

“The participation of the youth in environmental conservations has decreased throughout the years,” he said.

He also advised that SK programs should also advocate in the water-base monitoring rather than just being limited to sports activities.

Jommel Porlares, Barangay Cadalian SK chairman, said he pledged to push for programs protecting the river especially that his area of concern is part of Panigan River.

“It is ironic that the Philippines is an archipelago, surrounded by bodies of water and yet, we get to experience water shortage. I think as a youth, our full cooperation in this endeavor would help a lot since we would be benefiting from it in the future,” Porlares said. ( With reports from Arrianne Kate S. Arilla and Jessa Mae B. Reston, USeP interns)


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