Water woes

The sight of water pails lined up in long rows that snake through blocks of houses, waiting for the water tanker or the fire trucks to fill them up, isn’t new. We’ve seen a lot of this during water service interruptions, especially in the summer.
The difference this time is that it’s happening even before summer has officially started, catching consumers by surprise. Instead of rotating the interruptions, some areas have been waterless for almost a week.
The main culprit is the Manila Water, which supplies water to Metro Manila’s east zone (Maynilad supplies the west zone).
Manila Water blames the water rationing on El Niño and La Mesa Dam’s low water level. But the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) aren’t buying this line. Data also do not support the company’s claim.
To begin with, both Manila Water and Maynilad draw water from Angat Dam. PAGASA data show that the water level of the dam is around 200 meters. Yes, below the normal level of 212 meters but still above the critical level of 195 meters.
Question unanswered
Manila Water has left unanswered the real story behind the prolonged interruptions. It claims it had to implement operational adjustments amid the declining water supply in La Mesa Dam: The dam water is at a critical level of 69 meters, a 12-year low.
But why does Manila Water have to draw from La Mesa Dam, which is just an emergency reserve in case Angat Dam’s supply gets too low? That’s what MWSS wants to find out.
PAGASA has also questioned Manila Water’s claim that El Niño is behind the water service interruptions. If it is indeed El Niño, other dams’ water level should have gone down too, but they have not, said Rusy Abastillas of PAGASA’s Climate Monitoring and Prediction Section.
Manila Water’s claim becomes even more ridiculous after hearing Maynilad corporate communications head Jennifer Rufo, who said her company “is not affected by a supply crunch due to El Niño. We get our raw water supply directly from Angat Dam, which is currently at a normal level.” Maynilad also promised to supply additional 10 million liters of water to Manila Water come April to ease the supply shortage.
In a statement, Manila Water claims it has been warning of a looming water shortage if Metro Manila fails to find a new water source soon. It was referring to the Kaliwa Dam in Quezon, which has been in the pipeline for sometime. The company announced it again just last year.
Because of increasing demand, Manila Water’s requirement is now 1,750 million liters per day (mld). It says its allocation of 1,600 mld is not enough, forcing them to draw from its La Mesa dam reserves. Since it hasn’t been raining, the reserve is not getting replenished. Hence the need for water rationing.
Is someone manipulating the water issue? That is a question being raised by many. What is the motive? Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the public services committee, is slated to open an inquiry into the water problem.
While waiting for a solution, people should help one another in dealing with this crisis. The first thing we all should know, whether our households have been hit by the water crisis or not, is that it is our responsibility to conserve water and be prudent and frugal in our use of water. It is not inexhaustible.
Angat and Ipo dams supply Metro Manila with 4,000 mld of water, but a big percentage of this is lost to leaks. With the P18-billion budget for constructing Kaliwa Dam, there can be alternative sources of water, many of which are being advocated now:

  1. Launch a massive education campaign to convince the 13 million Metro Manila residents to learn “water management.” This would reduce water consumption significantly. It could be bad news for business but would be best for the environment.
  2. Harvest rain water, which floods us perennially, and implement the pertinent provision of the National Building Code of the Philippines (RA 1096).
  3. Fast-track the recovery of the non-revenue water or NRW by fixing leaks.
  4. Rehabilitate the Pasig-Laguna River Basin which would cost only P13 billion (estimated by Dr. Esteban Godilano, an environmental scientist).
  5. Adopt the Singapore New Water technology which treats wastewater to become potable.
  6. And most importantly, protect and expand our dwindling forests that serve as our largest watershed. These would refill our underground aquifers which are now overextracted.

Election frenzy
It’s still two months to elections. This means two more months of suffering through politicians’ gimmicks and song and dance numbers. Voters need to be reminded that among the most qualified candidates for public office are those who keep their dignity and do not resort to cheap gimmicks in their campaigns.
I wish the Commission on Elections would organize a neutral forum and require all the candidates, at least for the Senate, to present their platforms, respond to audience questions, expound on what they mean to do and can do when elected.
It is a disservice to the voters not to hear the candidates first hand; it’s not enough to get hold of their campaign materials. A healthy debate would let voters know who the candidates really are and what they stand for.
As of now, we have candidates who have been charged with plunder, overpricing, circumventing audit provisions, and large-scale corruption. It’s really sad to know that they are among the more popular candidates. We don’t deserve them.
Honesty unnecessary?
I thought what the candidates and parties say will no longer shock me, but what Mayor Sara Duterte said recently stretched the shock level to the limit.
Responding to Vice President Leni Robredo’s remark that dishonest persons should not run for public office, Mayor Sara, the President’s daughter, averred that honesty should not be an election issue. Her reason: Everybody lies.
Wow, someone has forgotten this value taught at home, in school, by society and required of all public officials by the law.
Hence, we all have to vote wisely. Prove to Mayor Sara that honesty and integrity are requirements in public service.

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