Expert warns of water scarcity in various areas

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    Water-stressed. A groundwater management plan is being implemented in critical areas where water is getting scare.
    Water-stressed. A groundwater management plan is being implemented in critical areas where water is getting scare.

    The government is implementing a groundwater management plan to ensure sustainable water resources for future generations as the list of areas in the Philippines that are running out of water is growing, according to an official of the National Water Resources Board (NWRB).

    Susan Abaño, chief of the policy and program division of NWRB, said several critical areas where water is running out have been identified. These are Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Iloilo, Cavite, Angeles City and Mabalacat City, Baguio City, Bacolod City, Zamboanga City, Tagbilaran City, and Batangas City.

    Abaño, who spoke at a recent forum, said these are not the only places where water is growing scarce, as more are expected to join the list.

    In view of this, a groundwater management plan is being implemented for these “water-stressed areas,” she added.

    The plan for water sustainability, she said, seeks to establish systematic and scientific management strategies for groundwater allocation as well as provide information for prioritizing aquifers, which are underground layers of rock that hold groundwater that can be drained by man-made wells.

    The plan also calls for preparing groundwater vulnerability assessment maps to show where the areas prone to pollution are, said Abaño.

    This is so that gasoline stations, sewerage treatment plants and other polluting establishments can be prohibited in those places where the groundwater can become polluted.

    The plan likewise demands designing a groundwater monitoring network on water quality and quantity of the aquifers.

    Also part of the plan is the development of a groundwater management plan for a study area that considers integrated water resources management and future impacts of climate change. Results of the project will then be used as basis for policy, planning, programming and project implementation.

    Most importantly, Abaño said, the NWRB is continuing to manage the allocation of Angat Dam, which is the main source of water supply for Metro Manila, home to 15 million people.

    Short-term measures taken by the NWRB to manage levels at Angat include the following: allowed the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to continue activating its existing deepwells and establishing new wells to serve as standby water source; reactivated deepwells for vital services such as those for hospital use and firefighting purposes. Cloud seeding operations have also been conducted over the Angat watershed area.

    For the long term, measures included fast-tracking the development of additional water sources through the grant of a water permit by NWRB to MWSS. These water sources could include Sumag Dam, Wawa River Project, and Kanan and Kaliwa dams.

    But Abaño said that although the water permit has been granted, “it’s not being utilized.”

    Other long-term measures are the development of Bayabas Dam for irrigation purposes, rehabilitation of irrigation canals, and construction of infrastructure to capture excess water.

    There is also a roadmap being prepared-the Comprehensive National Plan on Water Security-in which one of the solutions identified is rainwater harvesting. This entails that government agencies install rainwater harvesting mechanisms, and LGUs issue ordinances requiring new developments to be fitted with rainwater harvesting facilities and existing buildings to be retrofitted. Likewise the roadmap will prescribe the optimal use of rainwater for agricultural purposes, said the official.

    In her update, Abaño also talked of the plan to create a Department of Water, currently being discussed in congressional hearings. She said that with such department, duplication and waste of manpower and financial resources can be avoided as the 32 water-related agencies will be placed under one umbrella.

    The NWRB is the national coordinating and regulating agency on water resources management and development.

    Meanwhile, architect and urban planner Felino Palafox, Jr. during the open forum pointed out that Laguna de Bay, if cleaned up and protected from industrial wastes, is enough to provide for all the water needs of Metro Manila. – Philexport News & Features