Saltwater intrusion threatens potable water in Cebu City

File photo
File photo

A CRISIS looms as groundwater is depleted, resulting in saltwater intrusion.

According to the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) data, Barangays Mambaling, Sawang Calero, Pasil, Ermita, Santo Niño, San Roque, Tinago, Tejero, Carreta, Mabolo, and Kasambagan in Cebu City are already experiencing saltwater intrusion.

MCWD spokesperson Minerva Gerodias told SunStar Cebu on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, that based on a Japan International Cooperation Agency’s study, saltwater intrusion will reach Talamban in the north of the city by 2030.

She said the primary cause of saltwater intrusion in aquifers is over-extraction of groundwater, making the groundwater brackish or salty.

She said they are monitoring their extraction of water daily to ensure they do not over-extract; however, there are private well owners who do not do the same.

According to Gerodias, MCWD lacks the authority to enforce restrictions or compel private owners to stop water extraction because they do not have any regulatory power.

She said the water district currently has a total demand of 556,000 cubic meters per day and its total water production is only about 270,000 cubic meters per day.

“MCWD’s average total production is 270,000 cubic meters per day from 141 wells and private suppliers, covering approximately 33 percent of the total water demand of Metro Cebu. The low coverage is due to the unforeseen rapid increase in demand for potable water driven by urbanization, economic growth, tourism, in-migration and steady population growth in Cebu,” she said.

MCWD currently supplies water to the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and Talisay, and the municipalities of Liloan, Consolacion, Compostela and Cordova with a total of 205,000 service connections.

During the equipment installation ceremony at what is considered as the first large-scale desalination plant in the country located in Barangay Catarman, Cordova, Cebu on Thursday, Sept. 7, Vivant Infracore Holdings Inc. president and chief operating officer Jess Anthony Garcia told SunStar Cebu saltwater intrusion would lead to shortage of potable water sooner or later.

He said groundwater source is susceptible to saltwater intrusion because the more one pumps water from the ground the more seawater enters the aquifer.

Garcia said the use of desalinated water could provide a sustainable source of drinkable water.

He said that as an archipelago surrounded by seawater, it is “practically limitless” to tap it as a new source of potable water.

He said the process involved in making potable water out of seawater requires many different stages of filtration and refinement.

He said they dug up a sea well 50 meters deep to extract water underground, which is cleaner than the surface seawater.

He said the process of extracting seawater underground does not pose any environmental threat to the surface seawater. 

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