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Philippines: Manila Water Crisis

Categories: East Asia, Philippines, Breaking News, Development, Disaster, Economics & Business, Environment, Governance, Health

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Photo from the Flickr page of rickyli99

Metro Manila, the national capital region of the Philippines, is now experiencing a water shortage crisis with millions enduring water supply rationing [2]. Desperate for a bath, disgruntled residents have taken to breaking a water pipe in Malabon City [3]. Filipino bloggers try to make sense of the crisis.

Blackshama's blog finds the fact this rationing is done during the rainy season [4] worrisome.

August is historically the wettest month. Unless weather patterns change, next month may be the driest August. September is the last month of the wet season and then the dry begins. The only thing to be done is to lessen water use.

This shortage also came in the wake of the recent onslaught of the Typhoon “Basyang” (international codename: Conson). Window To my Soul is “going nuts” [5] over the lack of water.

Wait, we do have water, btw. However, water pressure is too weak that it doesn't go up. It does not reach my room. My washroom does not have water. The faucets in it have not released a single drop since the storm [Typhoon Basyang]. So that's roughly 6 days of being waterless. I have to fetch water all the way down from the basement.

I am Hybrid Cha shares her own water shortage experience [6].

This is really pain for me, for all of us and I absolutely am extending my patience the farthest I could because I do not have any choice (smile!). Plates, utensils, pans and glasses unwashed, left in the kitchen sink overnight; not having a good and indulgent bath (since water arrives (arrives???) at 6 AM and leaves (leaves??? visitor it is!) around 1 PM) for work; I wanted to take a short and comfy shower (when I feel like it) but since there is no water well what can I do but endure that sticky and messy feeling. There are things that I so want to do, things that are part of my routine that I could no longer do these past few days (since Thursday evening, July 15th to be exact!) because water just would not cooperate.

Let's Go Pinoy also shares a personal experience [7] which he thinks is connected to the water crisis.

although our faucets continue to provide our much-needed water supply, yesterday the water that was coming out was a light brown color! I thought at first it was from the dirty pail and washed it both inside and out and then after several rinses, I realized that it was the water itself. It's still that way this morning but not as brown. Because of this I didn't want to take my bath yesterday. But the heat and my stickiness from sweating got the better of me and I used the water to bathe.

Pinoy Buzz III recommends measures [8] that the government can take to solve the water shortage problem in the long-run.

1. All buildings should be retrofitted so that it will be able to recycle the water it uses for its sinks and toilet bowls.

2. All buildings should start storing rainwater.

3. All commercial establishments and private residences must have a waste water treatment facility. Smaller establishments can opt to have a communal waste water treatment facility, larger establishments may have their own.

4. Ban the development of new golf courses and inland water resorts.

5. Start the construction of desalination plants…

6. Start the construction of water recovery facilities along the Pasig River and in Laguna de Bay.

According to the Radical's Nut, the water shortage crisis [9] goes beyond the El Niño phenomenon and would not have been as bad “if not for structural issues related to the privatization of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) almost 13 years ago.”

Among the many promises made by the private water concessionaires and hyped by the then Ramos administration was upgrading the decrepit water system infrastructure. Such upgrade intends to substantially reduce non-revenue water (NRW, or water lost due to leaks and pilferage) and help achieve universal and 24/7 water supply for an increasing number of households. In their original concession agreement with MWSS, the private water firms promised to provide universal access by 2001.

But until today, less than 60 percent of 790,000 households in Maynilad’s service area have 24-hour water service while only 74 percent receive water at 7-pound per square inch (PSI) or stronger pressure (read here [10]). More than half (53 percent) of water allocated to Maynilad continues to get wasted because of leaks and pilferage (read here [11])…

There is no available data that break down NRW into leaks and pilferage. But the continued pervasiveness of illegal connections may be explained by skyrocketing water bills due to full-cost recovery under water privatization. Since MWSS was privatized, Maynilad’s basic charge has already soared by 449 percent and Manila Water, by 845 percent. Put that in a situation of worsening job scarcity, stagnant wages and income, and rapid increases in the overall cost of living and you will get the picture.