A dep’t to coordinate disparate  water efforts

Published May 12, 2019, 12:18 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

E CARTOON Feb 03, 2019It has begun to rain every day in many parts of the country but  it  isn’t  yet the rainy season,  the Philippine  Atmospheric,  Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration  (PAGASA) said. The rains are the result of warm moist air rising in the air where  it condenses  and  then falls back to earth, mosly in the afternoon and evening.

The real rainy season begins when warm winds —  the “habagat” —  bearing  water vapor evaporating from the equatorial waters start blowing in from  the southwest. As the  winds  reach  the western islands  of  our country, they rise to  cooler air levels where the water vapor  condenses into rain.  These truly heavy rains start late in May or early in June.

We thus have two to three more weeks of  the present  hot season. Then the heavy rains begin and we face our next problem—floods  and landslides.

Early this year,  around  March, some officials had already been thinking ahead of the coming  summer months  when  our dams dry up for lack of rains  and  faucets dry up in Metro Manila households .

“We utterly lack an apex body, a Department of Water, to ensure water supply and distribution,  an indispensable vital  need,” said  Socioeconomic Planning Secretary  Ernesto  Pernia.  There are now about  30 water agencies involved in the water sector, but each one works   without coordination with the others.

In 2016, Pernia  said, there was  a proposal for a Water Resources Department  or Water Resources Authority to  unify various efforts to face the country’s  water problem. A 2015 survey  showed that  only 55.3 percent  of the country’s population was served  by community-level piped systems.   For the rest, 35.4 percent got their water from wells, 6.8 percent from springs, rivers, and lakes, and 2.5 percent from water  peddlers  and  other  sources.

Even the well organized water systems,  such as that of Metro Manila with its two concessionaires,  have annual problems  of supply.  Metro Manila’s East concessioner,  Manila  Water,  was unable  to supply water to thousands of households  some  weeks ago, forcing President Duterte himself to step  in.

Various proposals to save the country’s abundant  rainwater  during the rainy season were made, including  one compelling  land developers to  set aside part of their project  to  store  rainwater  for use  in times of shortage.

But all these are separate proposals, plans,  and  initiatives, pursued in  times of need, but  set  aside when  the urgency  passes.  We  need  consistency,  coordination,  and persistence  in this effort. This could be provided by the proposed  Water   Resoures  Authority  or Water  Resources Department  which, Secretary  Pernia  said,  had  been proposed as early  as 2016.