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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, April 27, 2015
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Water shortage


Several provinces, including Occidental Negros are reported to be in dire need of water or are in grave danger of shortage. Iloilo is suffering from need for water and the latest report says that California has warned its citizens that they would be fined US$1,000 for using water beyond the limit. The report, however does not say how many liters a citizen is allotted but the report alone tells us that indeed water supply has become short. As I already reported earlier, Taiwan has started rationing.

The Bacolod City Water District last Wednesday issued “low water supply warning” for some areas in the city “especially in the central section of the city and other elevated areas.” The warning says the concessionaires will experience either low water pressure or no water at all. In short, Bacolod is now suffering from a water shortage, something we have not experienced before with dire consequences for the future.

BACIWA attributed this water shortage to “breakdown of its wells” which is “aggravated by frequent power interruption and voltage fluctuations.” BACIWA also blamed this power unreliability for the turbid water that comes out of our faucets. Many people will dispute these causes but that is for another time since the justification only obscures the real cause of the low or no water supply.

As a result of the inefficiency of BACIWA that deprives people of water when needed, BACIWA is punishing them with the suggestion - store water during hours when there is water. This means having to wake up at early morning or staying late at night till morning when others are not also storing water.

People thus have to wait for precious drops of water as early as two or three in the morning. But then, what else can BACIWA do? This has been its usual advice and people just accept them helplessly and hopelessly. The reality is that this situation arises not from lack of water but for lack of foresight, corruption and inefficiency. Bacolod has plenty of untapped water sources.

In fact, it is time to ask: whatever happened to the multimillion water project ostensibly to provide water for the city for years? The concrete pipes were laid but no water came out of them. Nobody in BACIWA, including those officials who signed the P480 million projects is telling us where the money and the water went. This issue is now in the hands of the government, especially the Ombudsman. We can only reveal but the rest lies with the government or whoever.

Maybe Atty. Pompeyo Querubin, BACIWA chairman at the time can tell us although Juliana Carbon signed that the project was completed so the contractors could be paid.

For now, however, let us examine the reasons for the water shortage here and elsewhere.

The present system of potable water delivery is known as the “hard path”. This is a centralized system of delivering water to the populated area through a network of pipes but this also involved cost that people had to pay for. Sometimes the water is sourced from natural spring or river or from underground wells. Pumping them is costly because of the use of electricity and as we now experience when this electricity fails, the delivery also falters or even stops altogether.

Since the number of people increases, the demand for more water rises prompting the water supplier to increase its volume. This puts a lot of pressure on the system.

The Bacolod water system using the hard path was established about 90 years ago. At the time the water flowed through the pipes from Barangay Granada and Alangilan. But now BACIWA dug wells and pumped out water. This is costly and reliant on power supply and the deeper the water source the more power the pumps will use.

The underground water supply is dependent on how much water returns to the subterranean source from rainfall or above ground. Drought definitely denies the replenishment and so the wells have to be sunk deeper and deeper and the pumps have to work harder and harder. Sourcing and maintaining thus become more costly.

We have become dependent on this centralized system and when it breaks or slows down, the community suffers. We are experiencing this now with BACIWA and other centralized systems that are used in this country and elsewhere.

If this system continues, the cost of water delivery and water itself will eventually force us to consider other alternatives. I will deal with this next week.*



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