Water, water everywhere, and much of it polluted

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MANILA, Philippines—Filipinos have more than enough of water to drown in but, alas, not a drop for drinking in some areas.

The reason: Much of it is polluted, or simply, the Philippines does not have the infrastructure to impound, treat and distribute it to households, according to an official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Vicente Tuddao Jr., the executive director of the DENR’s River Basin Control Office, on Tuesday said Filipinos have so much water around them thanks to an abundant groundwater supply, various inland water bodies and regular rains. But it is not being used in the most efficient manner.

At a press briefing to mark World Water Day on Thursday, Tuddao said the Philippines had 160 billion liters of water available but only 28 percent of that was being used by Filipinos for domestic purposes.

The rest is unfit for drinking and is used for agricultural and industrial purposes.

“We are still at the lower end compared to other Asians. There is a lot of surplus. But our water is polluted,” Tuddao said.

Water rationing

Water pollution is a serious problem in urban areas nationwide, depriving city residents of the precious resource, according to Tuddao.

Metro Manila, for instance, can boast of several bodies of water but none of these supplies the city with potable water.

“Laguna Lake and Pasig River are polluted. Can we use that? Here in Metro Manila, we are still polluting our rivers,” Tuddao said.

He said the metropolis, which depends on river basins in Central Luzon for its water supply, had to implement rationing in some areas during the summer months.

Make use of floodwaters

Tuddao also said the Philippines was not taking advantage of its floodwaters for lack of infrastructure to save this resource.

He noted that other countries, like Singapore, were catching floodwaters in underground cisterns to be used during the dry season for agricultural and industrial purposes.

Compared to other countries, the Philippines is in a unique position when it comes to its abundant water resources, according to the United Nations.

By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions gripped by water scarcity and two-thirds of the world’s population could be facing a possible water shortage, the UN said.

The United Nations said South Asia, East Asia and the Middle East were already close to using up their water resources.

Giant water drop

To celebrate World Water Day on Thursday, personnel from the DENR and other government agencies will assemble and form themselves into the shape of a giant water drop in front of Quirino Grandstand in Manila.

This would be an attempt to set a record as the world’s largest water drop formation, with hundreds of participants expected to attend, Tuddao said.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said this year’s activities would focus on increasing awareness to conserve water resources “not only because we need water to drink, bathe in and wash our clothes, but also because it is an important component of the food that we eat.”

Food supply chain

“Water is very much incorporated in the food supply chain, whether in irrigation, fisheries or in producing feeds for our livestock,” Paje said.

According to Tuddao, the Philippines’ river basins can sufficiently irrigate its crop lands. However, the country needs infrastructure, such as reservoirs and irrigation systems, to make sure water goes to the farmlands with little waste.

He compared the Cagayan Valley river system to the Mekong Delta, that fertile area in Cambodia and Vietnam where rice is grown, but it needs to be rehabilitated.

Some tributaries of the river system, which feeds into 2.5 million hectares of farmland, are polluted and heavily silted. This results in water wastage and floods during the rainy season, Tuddao said.

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  • paulmart

    I wish to share this information I got from my Indian friend, regarding water conservation.
    In certain states in South India, all houses are required to have a water collection pit, where all rain water from their roof will be collected and eventually absorbed into the ground. This water instead of filling the canals and overflowing into the river during rainy days, is effectively retained as underground water and  has reduced incidence of floods in their area.  In cities, like metro Manila, you will notice that even during slight rain, our streets and surroundings are getting flooded. If we could require all houses, or buildings to provide water collection pits in their premises, instead of letting the water flow to the streets and overflow the ditches, we will definitely reduce flooding. In heavy populated cities and places, water absorption to the ground is reduced since most of ground surfaces are already covered with concrete or other structures. We need to find ways to put or allow water to seep to the ground, by using a rain water collection pit. This practice will effectively store and preserve the water in the ground and will improve the underground water table. This also improves the ground water retention during summer season when the ground is expected to be dry. I have already implemented this practice in my house and it has been very effective, During small or heavy rain, all the water goes to the pit and easily absorbed to the ground. During summer season my ground surroundings seem to have retained enough moisture and humidity to make the grass survive without watering them.

  • http://twitter.com/chly2rees Chly Torres

    Go on destroy the environment further. I support you all!

  • anu12345

    I remember typhoon Ondong in September 2009 then in March of the following year, people lined up for water ration. So just six months after flooding of almost “biblical” proportion, there was water shortage. Not good

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