Tell it to SunStar: Cebu’s water problem

METRO Cebu’s water predicament is peculiar as most of us would surmise. It is no longer summer season but some areas still have no regular water supply. We experience floods but still inadequate to provide water to the consumers. This problem has long been lingering since the 1970s but more felt in recent years. Our water problem is compounded by many factors: an outdated water system delivery, lack of water source, mismanagement of watersheds and increasing demand.

I have read from the papers in the ‘70s that Cebu has an impeding water crisis. During my school days (25 years ago), cause-oriented groups and non-government organizations had been giving talks and presented the current situation of our ground water and watershed.

Fr. Herman van Engelen SVD of the USC Water Resource Center has long presented the issue on saltwater intrusion to the key leaders of Metro Cebu. His presentation must have fallen on deaf ears.

In 1995 a study revealed that saltwater intrusion has reached the portions of the Cebu Capitol area. This had made movements from civil society on the awareness of the ground water condition of our Metro Cebu. Many students, key leader institutions were informed on a looming water crisis in Cebu. Now a bleak study by MCWD that by 2030 saltwater intrusion will be on the foothills of Talamban. To give us an idea, these are the areas in Banilad and near University of San Carlos-Talamban Campus. It is a matter that has to be taken seriously and we as a society have failed to act on it.

Saltwater intrusion is caused by the excessive amount of fresh water extracted from pumps on our ground water that would result in saltwater going into our aquifers. This also makes the aquifers more vulnerable to pollutants to seep into our water source. This is either irreversible or will take time to recover if proper restorative measures will be done. This is further aggravated by deforestation, lack of rainwater seeping in the ground (caused by too much cementing of open spaces) and many more.

The blame game is now at play. Leaders blaming MCWD will not solve the problem. However, MCWD is equally responsible for our inadequate water supply. Our leaders always resort to band-aid remedies. Remedies like digging more wells will not solve this issue. Other options like desalination should be further reviewed on its effect. It may be the fast option but not in the long run. There are adverse results to this method such as increased seawater salinity (marine organisms die on too salty condition) and the use of fossil fuels in the process.

There are numerous solutions to avert this looming crisis. Vegetative restoration using native tree species is one solution and not the use of exotic ones (e.g mahogany, gemelina etc). Protection of our watersheds should be top priority. Take a look at Central Cebu Protected Landscape (CCPL) which is a 29,000-plus-hectare protected area. If this is managed properly, it can actually hold a large volume of water. It is the headwaters to major rivers of Cebu. Proper urban planning should be done and implemented to allow rainwater seepage into the ground water. Developing rivers as reservoirs will also develop additional water sources for communities near them.

We in Metro Cebu should accept that the water crisis is a reality that we are now experiencing if we don’t act now. Leaders should not deny the water crisis scenario and consider immediate courses of action. The data, studies and solutions have all been available but continually neglected. We should all unite in this cause, for water is a finite resource that is vital in everything that we do. We have been warned and we should act!


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