Baena to MCWD: Address 36% water wastage

Baena to MCWD: Address 36% water wastage
SunStar Local News GPX

CONSUMERS of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) should not be the only ones who should conserve water, but also the water district itself by addressing its more than 30 percent water wastage, also known as non-revenue water (NRW).

Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA)-appointed officer-in-charge general manager Joselito Thomas Baena said this non-revenue water could have been added to the water supply distributed to consumers.

However, MCWD chairman of the board of directors Jose Daluz III, whom the LWUA suspended for six months starting March 15, 2024, told SunStar Cebu Friday that the NRW can only be reduced up to 23 percent and that having zero NRW is unlikely to happen.

“We keep asking our consumers to conserve water. But when it comes to water conservation, MCWD should take the lead,” said Baena, according to a report by the Cebu City Public Information Office on Friday, May 3, 2024.

The Commission on Audit (COA) flagged MCWD in its 2022 annual audit report after observing that the NRW of the water district had been increasing from 25.26 percent in 2020 to 32.67 percent in 2022. The LWUA also found out that the NRW of MCWD had reached 36 percent.

Water districts are allowed only a maximum NRW of 20 percent.

The COA defines NRW as the quantity of water that is channeled into the water supply system that does not yield returns due to any or a combination of the following: theft, evaporation, faulty metering, poor data gathering and leakage.

Baena said NRW “is a loss that MCWD’s consumers cannot afford.”

Baena said the water crisis currently being experienced by MCWD consumers could have been prevented if the water district had been able to address its NRW, especially when its attention was called by the national government through the COA.

“If we can save that water, rather than wasting it, that could have reached the consumers,” Baena said in Cebuano.

Baena had visited Barangays Sambag 1, Sambag 2, Sta. Cruz, San Antonio, Tinago, Barrio Luz, Kamputhaw, San Nicolas Proper, Suba, Duljo Fatima and Pasil in Cebu City last week, where he learned about their limited water supply situation, with some of them experiencing no water for three days.

These barangays were not included in MCWD’s list of areas considered “severely affected” by water shortages, which included Umapad, Opao, Alang-alang, Looc and Subangdaku in Mandaue City; Lorega San Miguel, Binaliw, San Jose, Talamban, Pit-os, San Nicolas, Bulacao, Punta Princesa, Pardo, Banawa, Mambaling, Tisa and the barangay where V. Rama Avenue is situated in Cebu City; and Cansojong, San Roque, Pooc, Tabunok and San Isidro in Talisay City.

Hiring plumbers

Daluz said MCWD has already started addressing the NRW by hiring 60 plumbers to quickly respond to leaking, purchasing equipment to detect leaking, and trying to respond to the reported leakage within four hours.

He said the long-term solution to address NRW is to replace all old pipes, which would cost P1.8 billion in Cebu City alone.

In previous interviews, Daluz said MCWD would need P4 billion to replace all old pipes within its franchise area.

But Daluz said even with all these efforts, NRW could only be reduced to 23 to 25 percent.

“NRW cannot be zeroed out... Having NRW is normal and the allowable at the most is 23 to 25 (percent),” said Daluz.

This is due to the existence of leaking through pressure which is not avoidable, theft, damage by equipment, and free water provided to government fire trucks, according to Daluz.

Daluz instead asked Baena for his proposal to address NRW.

“Since he claims to be OIC GM, can he offer a specific plan how to reduce NRW?” Daluz asked.

LWUA suspended Daluz and other board members Miguelito Pato and Jodelyn May Seno for six months last March 15 for the purpose of investigating issues at the water district including MCWD’s high NRW, alleged failure to comply with procurement laws, and questionable 70 percent water rate hike application.

LWUA Administrator Jose Moises Salonga, in previous reports, said there had been about a P120 million loss in MCWD revenue yearly due to its high NRW.

The LWUA suspended MCWD general manager Edgar Donoso for 90 days last April 12 for defying its request to turn over documents on the MCWD’s transactions.

Donoso and the Daluz-led MCWD board do not recognize the LWUA’s authority to suspend them and continue to hold office at the MCWD main office in downtown Cebu City, where they increased security measures “to prevent unauthorized access by non-MCWD personnel” immediately upon the appointment of Baena as OIC GM by the LWUA-installed interim board of directors of MCWD, which has also been barred from entering the main office.

MCWD serves the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Talisay and Lapu-Lapu, and the towns of Consolacion, Liloan, Compostela and Cordova.

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