Cebu City councilor: Regulate private groundwater extraction

Cebu City map.
Cebu City map.

A LOCAL legislator has urged the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) to establish a technical working group among local government units to regulate groundwater extraction activities of private contractors in Cebu City and other local government units.

City Councilor Nestor Archival expressed concerns about unregulated groundwater extraction by private contractors, especially considering the drought gripping Cebu due to the El Niño phenomenon.

Archival, in a phone interview on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, emphasized that the NWRB is the institution with the authority to regulate such activities of private contractors.

“Whether they follow the requirements is up to the NWRB. That’s why we urge NWRB, but urging doesn’t guarantee monitoring as they are based in Manila, not Cebu,” Archival said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

Archival proposed the need for an integrated technical committee in each city or municipality involved, but confirmed that such a committee currently does not exist.

Executive session

Before the interview with SunStar Cebu, Archival participated in a City Council executive session Wednesday.

Archival, through a resolution, had invited the NWRB, Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD), and the University of San Carlos Water Resource Center to participate in the session.

The session aimed to inform the council about the groundwater volume status and water permit petitions in the city amid prevailing drought caused by the

El Niño phenomenon.

However, only representatives from MCWD attended the executive session.

Critical state

Lemuel Canastra, MCWD’s environment and water resources department head, highlighted the critical state of groundwater due to the lack of regulation on extraction activities.

Canastra said there is a tripartite agreement among the cities of Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue and Cebu to protect groundwater resources.

He said MCWD, as NWRB’s deputized agent, receives notices of groundwater extraction applications within its jurisdiction. MCWD then assesses these applications for approval or opposition. The water distributor’s franchise area covers the cities of Cebu, Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue and Talisay, as well as the municipalities of Consolacion, Liloan, Compostela and Cordova.

Canastra estimated Metro Cebu’s groundwater potential at about 450,000 cubic meters per day.

He noted MCWD’s current extraction at 170,000 cubic meters per day, sourced from bulk water suppliers and in-house wells. During the rainy season, production rises to around 280,000 cubic meters per day, dropping to 260,000 cubic meters during the dry season.

Metro Cebu requires 500,000 cubic meters of water daily. Cebu City alone needs approximately 96,940 cubic meters per day, with the remaining supply at 72,000 cubic meters from groundwater and an additional 34,000 cubic meters from bulk supplies, subject to reduction due to non-revenue water, estimated at 33 percent.

Fires

Pelarca, from MCWD’s public information division, attributed water depletion to fire-related incidents, particularly grass fires that necessitate significant water usage by fire brigades.

He further said that increased public water consumption due to rising temperatures contributes to the strain on water resources.

Pelarca said a household in the MCWD franchise area now consumes at least 150 liters per day. / AML

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