Water interruptions in Metro Manila are becoming a perennial problem, especially in the dry season. These days, however, water supply has become unpredictable due to the effects of climate change and several man-made factors.
The current water shortage could become a full-blown national crisis affecting Metro Manila residents and Filipinos nationwide, if no systematic approach is taken to solve the problem.
In the past few weeks, Maynilad Water Services Inc.—one of the two concessionaires supplying water to Metro Manila—announced that its customers will experience rotating water interruptions that may last up to 14 hours during the during the dry season because of the declining reservoir of the La Mesa Dam.
These disruptions greatly differ from those of the past because the main water source of Metro Manila is already at a critical situation caused by various factors, such as climate change, increasing siltation, and unaddressed logistical and infrastructural problems, such as water pipe leakages.
The water interruptions will not only affect households and commercial establishments in Metro Manila. Reduced water production will affect the productivity of businesses translating into lower output needed in order for the nationwide economy to run and operate. This, thus, will affect the productivity of the agricultural, industrial and service sectors outside Luzon.
The sole source of water for Metro Manila is the 56-year-old Angat Dam. Unfortunately, Angat Dam can no longer keep up with the demand for water of Metro Manila residents. It can can only provide 4,000 millions of liters per day to the National Capital Region, where 2,400 MLD is allotted to the west zone and 1,600 MLD to the east zone.
Updated figures from the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System Manila, however, show that water demand from Angat Dam in 2010 was already at 4,395 MLD and further reached 5,680 MLD in 2020. Rotating water interruptions had been resorted in Metro Manila since the Angat Dam fell short in in meeting the demand.
Angat Dam’s inadequate capacity to supply water to Metro Manila is further aggravated by leakages. Per reports, some of the aqueducts were built as early as the 1930s. Reports indicate several amounts of water leakage. For instance, Manila Water Co. Inc. discovered a pipe leak between Ipo Dam (Bulacan) and La Mesa Dam (Quezon City) at 1.7 cubic meters per second (CMS). This is further aggravated by the discovery of additional leaks from other parts of the aqueduct.
MWSS Deputy Administrator Jose Dorado Jr. offered to build new aqueducts, order a compliance to MWSS water supply roadmap and formulate a water supply-household demand curve. The two water concessionaires should also step up their game in addressing the issue.
Water security is one of the pillars needed for post-pandemic economic recovery because it is the lifeblood of the economy. Without water, households and businesses will not function affecting productivity and economic output.
According to the latest PSA statistics on water use (2020), water derived from available sources were allocated to power (58.6 percent), agriculture, forestry, and fishing (33.8 percent), mining, quarrying, manufacturing and construction (5.3 percent), and services sector and households (2.4 percent).
In terms of water distribution, households had the highest rate of consumption (51 percent), followed by the service sector (36.7 percent), mining, quarrying, manufacturing and construction (11.1 percent), and agriculture, forestry and fishing (1.2 percent).
The agricultural sector is heavily reliant on water because of the need for irrigation. The Philippine Rice Research Institute of the Department of Agriculture (DA-PhilRice) says a single kilogram of rice needs 4,000 liters or 20 drums of water.
Philippine exports cannot avoid the water crisis—with semiconductors as a major source of outbound shipments. Semi-conductors enjoy a high global demand because these are the foundational parts in the production of various gadgets and technology, especially mobile phones. Unfortunately, semi-conductor production is heavily reliant on water.
To produce a single mobile phone, 3,000 gallons of water are needed because semi-conductor chips of gadgets must be rinsed not by normal tap water, but by ultra-pure water (UPW). To produce 1,000 gallons of UPW, around 1,400 to 1,600 gallons of tap water are needed to be processed.
The water scarcity threat towards the electronic components industry should not be taken lightly. The government must exhaust all possibilities to address the water crisis—its supply is directly linked to economic productivity.