By Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

Musings on the water crisis

“There is simply no way to overstate the water crisis of the planet today” - Maude Barlow

Stuck in traffic on a hot day, I find myself thinking about water and more specifically about the water crisis.

Lately, there has been a surge of pronouncements on the looming and “creeping” water crisis in the metropolitan area and the country in general. Our news feeds are filled with water crisis related items.

This summer, we are again told to expect some water shortages or disruptions in the water supply. Calls for conservation and efficient water usage fill the air. People are beginning to remember the water shortage of 2019 in Metro Manila. It must be recalled that on March 6, 2019, about 10,000 households across Metro Manila began to lose water supplies.[1] On March 11, the water level in La Mesa Dam reached 68.93 masl (meters above sea level) , below its critical level of 69 masl. The lowest in a decade.

Clearly, our problem with water has been increasing over the past decades. Our country has a dry season that lasts six to eight months that leave us vulnerable due to our dependence on the natural supply of water. When an El Niño phenomenon occurs, the situation is aggravated with lesser rainfall and higher temperatures. Population concentrated on a few urban centers have accelerated the effects of this crisis. The 2019 incident crystallized to many the urgency of the problem.

There is a bill now pending in Congress that seeks to create a Department of Water Resources. Several sectors have expressed support for the creation of a single government body which would be focused on water resource management and strengthening the implementation of water-related laws to improve coordination among regulatory bodies.

The creation of this agency is part of our government’s road map for water security in Metro Manila. Meanwhile, a Water Management Office under the DENR has been created as a bridge measure pending the passage of the said bill.

The Kaliwa Dam Project is also part of the government’s road map for water security. Its construction is now under way. Understandably, there have been some concerns about the project which delayed the construction/implementation for decades. However, a deep research on the matter will show that the latest design on the project has been done to provide the least amount of impact on the environment. Also, both the DENR and the NCIP have undergone through the appropriate process for years before it was given the greenlight.

The need for the said project has never been an issue. In a recent forum, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) stressed that “Metro Manila and nearby areas will have a water crisis similar to the 2019 shortage if Kaliwa Dam does not come on stream after 2027”.

There has been no viable, realistic, and specific alternative solution given by any sector. Given the urgency of the problem, the project had been given the go signal to start. I do not envy the persons who made the call or decision given the opposition to the project. However, sometimes hard decisions must be made for the needs of the many. Perhaps, now is the time to focus on measures that would alleviate the effects which are the source of the concerns of some sectors.

Other than the measures already, there is still a need for additional measures to stem the effects of the looming water crisis.

Again, everyone must now step up to meet this crisis. Water conservation, efficient use of water in industrial and government set ups, rainwater harvesting, water recycling, desalination and other new technologies and techniques must be explored. Perhaps, the new water body, when created, can take the lead and initiative for these new solutions.

This is my oblique observation while being stuck in traffic on a hot day.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

ATTY. GILBERTO LAUENGCO, J.D. is a lawyer, educator, political strategist, government consultant, Lego enthusiast, and the director of CAER Think Tank. He is a Former Vice Chairman of MECO, Special Assistant of NFA and City Administrator among others. His broad experience has molded his unique approach to issues analysis which he calls the oblique observation.