Cebu water supply critically low as dry season begins


By Minerva BC Newman

CEBU CITY – Cebu is facing a critically low supply of water as the dry season officially begins, with only 12 percent of the normal rainfall expected in Central Visayas.

Netherlen Saletrero, weather specialist of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said at a recent forum there is a 60-percent chance that the El Niño episode will last until June. “Normal rainfall is expected to come in July,” Saletrero said.

Charmaine Kara, manager of the Community Relations and External Affairs department of Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD), told media Cebu’s water supply had been critically low this month.

Kara said MCWD supplies only 43 percent of the domestic and commercial water needs of eight local government units in Cebu. The 57 percent is supplied by other private water providers.

MCWD is already rationing water to its more than 191,000 customers, and 35 percent is extracted from ground water wells, she said.

The daily water demand of Metro Cebu is more than 450,000 cubic meters, and MCWD supplies only about 238,000 cu.m., Kara said.

Kara said that based on MCWD’s monitoring, Cebu’s ground water sources have heavy salt-water intrusion and high nitrate contamination due to unregulated and untreated septic tank system.

At a water forum last week, Jose Eugenio Singson, MCWD general manager, also noted that unregulated water extraction, clogged recharge areas, rapid population growth, and receding fresh water table are the agency’s biggest concerns.\

To address the low water supply, MCWD plans to optimize available surface water, shift to desalinated water, develop pocket groundwater sources, treat septage waters, and conduct environmental management, Singson added.

Kara said MCWD is also working hard to make Mananga Dam a reality. The dam will have a capacity of 80,000 cu.m. and will cost P12 billion to build.

Another project is a desalination plant in Mactan which will remove salt from 100,000 cu.m. of seawater per day and is estimated to cost around P11 billion, Kara added.

She said that until the big-ticket projects are realized, rationing and storing water seem to be the new normal specifically during the El Niño episode.