Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dealing with the water crisis

Like me, you'd probably be among those who expect that the most recent Typhoon (Basyang) would have already filled up the Angat Dam by the time it left the Philippines.

A water shortage at the start of the rainy season seems improbable, but that's what we are experiencing right now.

Last year, I blogged that Ondoy was a sign that climate change was here and as I write this, I feel convinced that the current water shortage may yet be another sign of climate change.

Climate change isn't just unusually heavy rains that brings floods, it is a global shift in weather patterns.  It can also mean that rain is falling in places where it normally doesn't.  It can miss watershed areas while dumping a virtual ocean on areas which do not normally experience rain.  This can lead to flooding in some areas and drought in others.

This dry spell wasn't completely unexpected and experts (Pagasa) had been warning for years about dry spells getting longer and longer.

It isn't that the previous administration didn't do anything about it or didn't do enough.  Certainly, it can point to a number of measures which may include a number of infrastructure projects aimed at tapping more sources of water.

The more important facet of the water shortage problem is how the general population uses or abuses its water resources.

We basically just throw all our water down the drain and what is worse is that THAT dirty water eventually ends up in streams and drivers... polluting our water resources.

Right next to experiencing a water shortage at the start of this year's typhoon season, I think one huge writing on the wall that has been missed for decades is the fact that Metro Manila has to depend on water sources from neighboring provinces when we have the Pasig River running through the middle of the city.

We've been hearing and seeing all manner of media hoopla about saving the Pasig River, but the river is still dirty and stinky.

I may be mistaken, but, we've had all manner of save the Pasig River movements for decades... But the river ain't getting any cleaner.

Where did all the billions of pesos supposedly donated for the cause end up?  Where was all that money spent?

If Pasig River is dirty, can you imagine how much dirtier Laguna de Bay is?   The Pasig River flows but the Laguna de Bay is turning into open sewerage pit.

Anyway, here comes my point.

I think, in the next few weeks or months, the present government should come out with a program for managing Metro Manila's water shortage problem.

Cloud seeding is a band aid solution, as I've said.  What is really needed is a long term water conservation and RECYCLING policy.

I don't know if the measures I am going to point out are already being implemented, but here it goes:

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.  The benefits may be marginal at this point, but as it has been said, climate change is here to stay for the long haul.  Investing in this technology now will give us the advantage of developing expertise and homegrown technology -- something that will be crucial in the decades to home.  The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was seen as a White Elephant by the short-sighted and vengeful Cory Administration, but what it was really meant to provide was a training ground for our own experts in nuclear power technology.  If it had continued, we would by now have access to third generation nuclear power technology which basically recycles nuclear fuel.

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

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