Wednesday, March 23, 2011

‘No shortage of water, only lack of gov’t will’

‘No shortage of water, only lack of gov’t will’
Surface water development, dam engineering urged
By Candeze R. Mongaya
Cebu Daily News
March 23, 2011

Cebu faces a shortage of water resource development—not supply—due to lack of political will to tap the province’s many water sources.

“We don’t have crisis of the supply, but on resource development,” said hydrologist Fe Walag, deputy director of the University of San Carlos-Water Resource Center (USC-WRC).

Wagas cited a 2006 study titled Water Resource Management Plan for Metro Cebu or the “Water Remind” project that reported that Cebu has a water shortage of 60,000 to 70,000 cubic meter daily.

“Our crisis is due to the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD) because they are mandated to serve but they had not served fully,” Walag said.

She said demand for water would rise in the long run due to increasing population and economic activities in Cebu.

The MCWD provides 200,000 cubic meters of water every day and provides 50 percent of the water supply in Metro Cebu.

MCWD general manager Armand Paredes also assured that there is still enough water supply in Cebu.

“We will maximize the extraction of groundwater,” Paredes said during an interview yesterday.

But Walag warned the MCWD that “excessive” drilling of groundwater can cause saltwater intrusion.

She explained this meant that saline water would move into the freshwater aquifiers and contaminate the groundwater source.

Walag said long-term solutions like developing surface water as a sustainable water source are the order of the day.

“They should decide to do engineering of high dams,” Walag said.

She said the water shortage problem won’t be felt in the present since the MCWD can still maintain a certain volume of water, which is enough to supply metro Cebu.

“They would be able to maintain the present volume, but they would not be able to go beyond it either,” she said.

The Buhisan Dam is the only surface water source tapped by the water district that has a 60-hectare pond area.

The dam produces 5,000 to 10,000 cubic meters of water per day and provides 5 percent of the MCWD water supply.

Though dam engineering and developing surface water require bigger capital cost compared to groundwater drilling, she said it will cost less in the long run.

She said a rebuilt dam requires less maintenance cost, consumes less energy and has an extended life span.

Walag said local government units (LGUs) and community stakeholders should also back the water district in pursuing this plan.

She said many feasibility studies were done since the 1980s, but implementation didn’t push through due to inadequate financial support and lack of political will.

Walag said the public should be educated on the water problem so they could pressure government officials to implement development of dams.

Paredes said an ongoing feasibility study was funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to study the possible development of Kotkot Lusaran Watershed as another surface water source.

He said the supply from the Buhisan dam is insufficient to supply Metro Cebu’s water needs.

Though the cost of sourcing from groundwater is lower, Paredes said they will develop surface water to augment the water supply.

The Buhisan Dam was built 100 years ago and can still operate for another 100 years, Paredes said.

A technical team that surveyed the dam said the dam’s rock formation is still intact.

Only “minor” repairs like the dam’s water gates, which don’t fully close, are needed to allow more water from the pond to flow to the water exits.

Paredes said they also asked the LGUs to survey the profile of riverbeds to determine its vulnerability to floods.

He said they are also studying the possibility of increasing the water rates two years from now to cope with the water district’s increasing operational costs.

Should that happen, Paredes said the first area to be affected would be Mactan.

He said Mactan’s water source undergoes more filtration and sanitation due to the high saltwater intrusion of their groundwater source.