Better wastewater management for our cities | Inquirer Opinion

Better wastewater management for our cities

/ 05:02 AM October 31, 2020

This World Cities Day, it is important to reflect on how we can foster livable cities that allow us to not only survive but also thrive. 2020 has been a trying year with COVID-19, but we should not lose sight of the need to build resilient cities, as the Philippines continues to rapidly urbanize.

The country has already set in motion its smart nation ambition: Currently under construction, New Clark City will be its first smart and resilient metropolis. The Philippines should not let its initiatives lose momentum.


Amid urban problems that smart cities can address such as flooding, traffic, and overcrowding, there is one crucial pillar that digitalization can help address: wastewater management. With rapid urbanization, the Philippines is facing significant challenges in terms of water and sanitation. Only 10 percent of wastewater is treated while 58 percent of the groundwater is contaminated. Metro Manila alone generates about 2 million cubic meters of wastewater every day.

The pandemic has also led to increased wastewater production. An exponential increase in medical waste has made its way into landfills and oceans, which can adversely impact our health.


Water management in cities also presents its own unique problems. In cities where increasingly dense populations are driving greater space constraints, water solutions need to be constructed to ensure minimal disruption to residents and existing infrastructure.

As the government gears up to address issues of universal water and sanitation services coverage by 2028, reliable and intelligent technology will be critical in enabling this transformation.

Pumping stations are crucial to the water and wastewater process. They are designed to collect and quickly move as much water as possible. With today’s technology, pumping stations can undergo advanced computer modelling of pressurized sewer systems, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) flow simulation, and model testing to optimize the design right from the start, avoiding future complications such as blockages, odors, power outages, and flooding.

We at Grundfos recently worked with Lio Tourism Estate, located in El Nido, Palawan, to support its wastewater management efforts. Keen to find wastewater management solutions that will help them raise the bar for sustainable tourism, Lio achieved this by applying intelligence to its wastewater management process, creating energy and cost savings with a space-efficient and reliable solution.

In smart cities, smart wastewater systems can also meet the demand for freshwater by detecting and preventing combined sewage overflows and chemicals in wastewater with the help of sensors. Wastewater treatment also allows us to get the most out of used water by harnessing it repeatedly.

Freshwater is one of the most precious natural resources that is getting scarce by the day. Treating and reusing wastewater reduces water consumption and further saves water for the community. We should not see used water as waste, but as a resource that can be looped back into production.

Technology that can empower smart city transformation exists, but how do we start? Collaboration is key. The public sector can effect change, while the private sector can bring the expertise, agility, and innovation. Best practices and learnings can also be shared between countries to replicate what works.


We must also ensure a citizen-centric design approach to such developments. Smart cities are built for the people, and must solve actual, pressing problems and bring value to citizens.

As we continue to move toward greater urbanization, our cities need to evolve as well. Water management is a key pillar in this. Once we begin to reconsider our approach to water, we will start building cities that are truly resilient against global crises.


Jonathan Breton is general manager of Grundfos Philippines.

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TAGS: city, Government, sanitation, sustainability, Urban, water, World Cities Day
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