By Victor V. Saulon, March 18 2019; Business World

Image Credit to Business World

THE National Water Resources Board (NWRB), the state agency tasked to oversee the country’s water resources, has approved the activation of deep wells that will add 100 million liters per day (MLD) to ease the shortage being felt by consumers in Metro Manila’s east zone.

“… [W]e issued the order on March 14 and [it] is valid for four months,” NWRB Executive Director Sevillo D. David, Jr. said when asked to confirm whether 101 deep wells had been activated.

Tapping the wells — earlier disallowed because of their impact on the environment — is estimated to add around 100 MLD, Mr. David said in a mobile phone message on Sunday.

Geodino V. Carpio, Manila Water Co., Inc.’s chief operating officer, confirmed that the deep wells have been up. “Deep well energization has started,” Mr. Carpio said in a text message on Sunday.

Mr. David also said that NWRB, an agency attached to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, had approved for March an additional 2 cubic meters per second (CMS) from Angat dam to the La Mesa dam reservoir, to bring the allocation to 48 CMS.

Before the water shortage hit the city’s east zone, the 46 CMS allocated to the Philippine capital’s two water concessionaires translated to 4,000 MLD.

Maynilad Water Services, Inc. in the west zone receives 2,400 MLD for distribution to its 9.5 million customer base, while Manila Water in the east zone gets 1,600 MLD for its 6.8 million customers.

When added to the measures now in place, the 100 MLD from deep wells is expected to cover the water deficiency in the east zone at around 140 MLD and up to 150 MLD when demand peaks.

As of Friday, the measures adopted by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) included a request for Maynilad to allocate 50 MLD and share water through a cross-border arrangement to augment the Manila Water’s supply.

It also announced the deployment of water trucks to an estimated 50,000 households in Quezon City, as well as Parañaque and Taguig cities. About 76 water tankers are delivering water to the hardest hit areas, the agency said.

MWSS has also directed Manila Water to activate and operationalize its Cardona, Rizal treatment plant. The plant was originally set to operate in Oct. 2018 to provide additional 100 MLD to its consumers. Manila Water said the plant has been “energized” with an initial 24 MLD and up to 50 MLD by end-March.

Maynilad is giving additional 10 MLD of its raw water allocation, it added.

San Miguel Corp.’s Bulacan Bulk Water has also stepped in by providing potable water through trucks to affected communities using its untapped 140 MLD in coordination with MWSS and local governments.

On Sunday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said in a statement that a draft executive order (EO) to address Metro Manila’s water crisis could put the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) — which oversees all government efforts pertaining to water supply — under the Office of the President (OP).

In its press release, the Office of the Cabinet Secretary said: “Among the provisions of the proposed EO is the reconstitution of the National Water Resources Board into a body that will be responsible for policy, direction-setting, and the integration of all government efforts pertaining to water.” The body, according to Mr. Nograles, “may be placed under the supervision of the Office of the President.”

The NWRB is currently under the supervision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) by virtue of EO 123 s. 2002.

“Given the scope and breadth of water-related concerns, the supervision of OP could help ensure that all 30-plus agencies involved in water resource management are on the same page,” Mr. Nograles was quoted as saying.

One of the responsibilities of the NWRB, according to Mr. Nograles, “would be the crafting of a national water management master plan.”

Mr. Nograles said the draft EO “was discussed at length in the latest Cabinet Assistance System meeting in Leyte last Friday.”

He also said the document is currently “being finalized and will be submitted to the President for his input and approval.” — with ALB