THE building of dams and at least 11 desalination plants are among the measures eyed to correct the huge deficit in the supply of clean, safe and potable water in Metro Cebu, and stave off a water shortage in the coming years.
These are part of the action plan formulated to solve the water crisis in Metro Cebu.
The Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) has a supply deficit exceeding 330,000 cubic meters of water per day.
The action plan, which calls on the government and non-government agencies, experts, the academe and the private sector to immediately implement structural solutions to address the crisis, resulted from the Cebu Water Summit held on March 27-28, 2023 at the Bai Hotel Cebu in Mandaue City.
The plan aims to mitigate the impact of saltwater intrusion into the groundwater supply in the aquifers, over-extraction of groundwater, nitrate contamination and other factors that may bring about a water shortage.
During the summit Tuesday, Jon Paolo Siglos, president of the Philippine Institute of Chemical Engineers-Cebu Chapter, said the structural solutions include expediting the construction of long overdue dams, which the University of San Carlos-Water Resources Center and Cebu City Planning and Development Office pushed for, as harnessing surface water as a source would also enable the recharging of aquifers.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and Vice Mayor Raymond Garcia expressed support for the move to construct a dam by the Mananga River to augment the water supply of the city.
Siglos added that the construction of desalination plants will be considered a medium-term solution to the supply deficit. It involves converting saltwater and brackish water into safe drinkable water after removing the salt and other contaminants.
MCWD Corporate Planning and Management Office Head Emmanuel Espina revealed in the same summit that desalination, though it has a higher cost, is drought-resistant, abundant in source of water, and has a shorter development period compared to groundwater and surface water as sources.
Espina said MCWD is pushing for the installation of 11 desalination plants.
These would be located in the South Road Properties, Barangays Inayawan and Mambaling in Cebu City; Barangay Opao in Mandaue City; Barangays Canjulao and Marigondon in Lapu-Lapu City, Barangays Dumlog and Pooc in Talisay City; Barangay Casili in the town of Consolacion; Barangay Poblacion in Cordova; and Barangay Catarman in Liloan.
These upcoming plants will produce an additional 20,000 to 30,000 cubic meters of water per station that will be funded through a joint venture agreement or competitive bidding process.
The desalination plants will also address the water supply deficit in 2022 of 338,245 cubic meters of water per day from the demand of 563,245 cubic meters of water per day.
The water agency produced only 255,000 cubic meters of water per day in 2022, 70 percent of which was extracted from groundwater.
Siglos also said there should be strict and proactive implementation of environmental laws.
He called on government agencies, particularly the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, to be unrelenting in going against commercial establishments violating Presidential Decree 1067 or the Water Code of the Philippines, Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 and other laws that penalize firms for discharging their untreated wastewater that do not pass the general effluent standards directly into any bodies of water.
He added that local government units (LGUs) must also be firm in implementing these laws in relation to the households and residential areas near river banks.
Siglos said there must be a consolidation and periodic reporting of all programs and initiatives to be put in place in a live portal or repository that revolves around solving the water crisis.
He said there are 32 government agencies that have overlapping functions involved in water resources, not even counting the LGUs and other sectors.
He added that there should be an intensive and enhanced awareness campaign, specifically targeting the ordinary communities on the conservation of rivers, streams and coastal waters.
In line with this, Siglos said academic research has to be toned down to layman’s terms for better understanding in communities.
The latest technologies must also be incorporated in data gathering and analytics to further progress all research and study initiatives.
He added that all stakeholders must also take the curative and unitive approach in solving the crisis, while existing plans must also be reviewed.