Just add H2O

Published July 29, 2019, 12:39 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Ambassador  José Abeto  Zaide
Ambassador José Abeto Zaide

It’s one of the ironies of Manila —  to thirst in the midst of a flood.

Manila is one of the most providentially blessed cities, sitting in one of the finest bays in the world.  It is traversed by the Pasig river. Nearby is Laguna de Bay and farther afield are Taal Lake and Caliraya.  And there is the Wawa river flushing torrents to the sea.  Despite all these, Manila is not always able to quench the thirst of the populace.

The ohrwurm that seems to ring in my ear on some rainy days without water is the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner: Water, water, everywhere… not a drop to drink. Many of us can probably still remember the time when an enraged citizen hung a protest sign in front of a municipal hall: “Walang tubig: Mabuti pa si Meyor, may tulô!”  A colorful vernacular which defies translation in polite circles.

Filipinos are one of most ingenious peoples.  The water shortage that hit the East Zone of Metro Manila in April this year spurred proposals to preclude this happening again. When I was a kid, my mother told us that they used to save rainwater from the roof for household use.  But today our subdivisions expand and build upon available real estate, paving the streets and driveways, and directing the rainwater to sewers flow flush into the sea…while floods rise in the city in the process.  Famine in the midst of plenty; or thirst in the midst of a flood.

There are many ways to conserve water  —  like building weirs, conserving river water by drawing water from Laguna de Bay and from old wells, or, in extremis, creating a Department of Water to address our perennial shortage. One project that answers our water problem is the approval of the Wawa Bulk Water Project. It is a joint venture of Enrique Razon, the chairman of the International Container Terminal Services, Inc., and Oscar Violago, the head of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Water Development Corp. It will supply 80 million liters a day (MLD) by 2021, 500 MLD by 2025, boosting water production in the East Zone by 30 percent. The proponents are investing up to P20 billion to ensure water-supply security over the medium- and long-term.

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System approved the proposal for the construction of a dam in Montalban as a medium-term water source. This undertaking revives the Wawa Dam in Rodriguez, Rizal. (Wawa was Manila’s source of water before it was abandoned in 1968 when Angat Dam was built.) Reviving the Wawa to slake the thirst of a burgeoning Metro Manila population and nearby areas is the medium-term answer, according to MWSS Chairman Franklin Demonteverde and Administrator Reynaldo Velasco.

The tariff impact of the Wawa project is expected to be minimal because of the strategic location of the new water supply source. The search for other new sources of water continues, along with the upgrading of the established systems of tunnels and aqueducts. Other possible water sources are Putatan, Cardona, Sumag River, Calawis, Rizal Wellfield, Lower Ipo, Muntinlupa, Laguna Lake, and Kaliwa Dam in Quezon Province.

NEXT PICTURE.  Gus Albor, the enfant terrible I knew when I was also young and full of hope, will have his nth exhibition titled “Encompassing” on 31 July-29 August 2019 at the Finale Art File at 2241 Chino Roces Avenue.  The collection includes a 7-foot oeuvre (conceived for the Venice Biennale 2015 but not executed because of transport costs)  —  a walk-in contraption for extra-sensory experience. FEEDBACK: [email protected]