High and dry
The looming interruption in water supply should deliver the message that water is a precious resource—and it would be sheer idiocy to waste it.
There’s an ironic surfeit of water courtesy of the torrential rains (and resultant flooding) regularly occurring these days, but in fact it indicates that El Niño is here and will be more debilitating than usual. “[This El Niño] will potentially be among the four strongest events since 1950,” states a bulletin issued by the weather bureau Pagasa. The bulletin warns that an abnormally powerful El Niño will cause dry-spell conditions in 29 provinces by the end of the month, and will “most likely strengthen further before the end of the year and may last until the first half of 2016.”
Sept. 16 is when Metro Manila will begin experiencing a series of water supply interruptions. In order to conserve the amount of water in Angat Dam and Ipo Dam, the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) has lowered its allocations to the concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water: 38 cubic meters per second instead of the original 41 cubic meters per second.
That’s a considerable drop, and Maynilad has announced that an estimated 900 barangays (56 percent of its concession area, the Greater Manila West Zone) will be adversely affected. That’s over 350,000 consumers in the cities of Manila, Makati, Quezon City, Caloocan, Parañaque, Pasay, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa, Navotas, Malabon and Valenzuela, and some parts of the province of Cavite. Manila Water has yet to make its own announcement at this writing.
In the first week of the interruptions, the affected consumers will be without water for seven hours. If things don’t improve, the length of the interruption will increase every week until it extends to more than 12 hours. Hopefully, better weather (read: more rain in the area of the dams) will ease the situation.
But before it goes from bad to exceedingly terrible, it behooves everyone to do their bit in conserving water beyond merely storing it. Fix those leaks (the World Bank said in a report in 2012 that 32 billion cubic meters of water are lost every year simply from leaks) and faulty taps (imagine the water wasted when a faucet drip is ignored). Report busted pipes to the concerned authorities. Use less water when showering, brushing teeth and washing dishes. Remember to reuse water for, say, watering plants and washing cars. Pour drinking water only according to the amount to be consumed.
There are many other simple ways that will go a long way toward conserving this finite resource. It has already been said that future wars will be fought, not over oil and fossil fuels, but over water and the control of its supply.
Agriculture is particularly vulnerable to the potentially disastrous wallop of El Niño. Still, “although El Niño is here, we are prepared,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said as early as last March, in the course of lauding farmers for engaging in water-conservation techniques in preparation for a particularly dry year. “It will not turn out to be the sum of all our fears,” he added. That is fervently wished.
With climate change and its effects now being felt all over the planet, it would be worthwhile to consider how other countries have developed novel ways of protecting themselves. The desert nation of Israel, constantly in need of water to support its highly independent existence, invented the drip irrigation system. It teaches its children from kindergarten onward to use water wisely, utilizes desalination systems and, of course, reuses much of its water.
That country’s example can be a good source of inspiration for Filipinos who must now come to terms with the fact that water will not be as available as it once was.
(In truth, in certain remote communities, the luxury of running water is unheard-of.) The interruptions in water supply, while sure to be inconvenient, will provide the best opportunity to force the general public into the important mindset of constant water conservation. There is no better time to learn the value of water than when one is faced with the prospect of going without it on a regular basis.
If Filipinos don’t change the way they use water, then they will truly be left high and dry.
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