POLLUTION, denudation of watersheds and over-extraction of groundwater sources are just some of the issues affecting Metro Cebu’s water resources.
With the growing demand for water, officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 and the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) stressed the need for better resource management during yesterday’s Water Challenge Forum.
DENR 7 Director Isabelo Montejo said contamination of water sources is not only caused by industries but also by households.
“Industries account for about 40 percent of wastewater discharges in Metro Cebu. The remaining 60 percent comes from households, which is difficult to manage unless you connect every house to a wastewater treatment facility,” he said.
He said industries have wastewater treatment facilities and are subject to monitoring by the DENR, through the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) 7. “No one is monitoring wastewater from households,” he added.
Montejo said managing wastewater from households can be done by ensuring proper disposal of septage, or wastes coming from septic tanks.
Households, however, also generate wastewater from laundry, dishwashing and general house cleaning, which may involve toxic cleaning substances.
Cebu City Councilor Nestor Archival revealed during the forum that there are plans to set up by 2015 a model septage treatment plant at the North Reclamation Area with the help of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
But even if industries have wastewater treatment facilities, the EMB still has to monitor their discharges. “The maintenance of wastewater treatment facilities is costly and some companies might encounter problems later,” Montejo said.
Lasaro Salvacion, MCWD Water Resources Knowledge Center manager, said over-extraction of groundwater is also a major concern in Metro Cebu.
“To ensure sustainability, there has to be a balance between recharge (of the resource) and extraction,” he said during the forum.
“If the recharge of the aquifer (groundwater source) is less than what is extracted, the result is mining.”
He said this is why MCWD considers the state of the aquifer when drilling wells.
However, MCWD only meets 42 percent of the demand in Metro Cebu. The rest of the demand is answered by private wells.
A 1986 study by the University of San Carlos Water Resource Center revealed that there were 19,000 private wells in Metro Cebu. In a 2009 survey, MCWD found 15,000 private wells in Mactan Island alone.
Over-extraction of ground-water can result in saltwater intrusion into the aquifer, a development that makes groundwater saline and no longer potable.
Apart from developing surface water sources, the DENR and MCWD stressed the need to intensify efforts to reforest protected watersheds in central Cebu and implement more effective measures to control pollution.
Cindylyn Pepito, a chemical engineer who works at the EMB 7, said pollution is not the sole responsibility of the DENR. “Everyone is responsible,” she added.
The Water Challenge Forum was sponsored by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and is part of a series of activities to raise awareness on the need for an effective water resource management.