Briones: Expensive water

·3 min read

If you rely on the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) for your water supply, then you’re in for a big surprise.

In a couple of years or so, your water bill will be more than half what you are paying now. That is, if the water MCWD will be pumping into your house comes from one of three desalination plants that will be built in the cities of Cebu, Lapu-Lapu and Talisay. Assuming that the projects will get off the ground.

I don’t expect there to be an across-the-board rate increase. There shouldn’t be. I mean, households that are getting their water from existing sources have nothing to worry about. They shouldn’t be affected, right?

Let’s look at the figures, shall we?

MCWD consumers currently pay P180 per 10 cubic meters. Once the desalination plants start supplying water, they can expect a rate increase of P70 to P120 per 10 cubic meters of water. That means, they can be paying as much as P300 for every 10 cubic meters of water.

That’s a lot of money for your average Juan and Maria.

Of course, the rate hike will still have to go through a process before it can be implemented, such as public consultation and publication in newspapers.

The MCWD also needs to seek approval for the rate amendment from the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), according to MCWD chairman of the board of directors Jose Daluz III.

But what Daluz is not saying is that it’s not really up to MCWD or even LWUA.

In the end, the consortium that will undertake the construction of the three desalination plants will have final say because the projects will be solely funded by it at no cost to MCWD.

Mind you, desalination plants are costly to build and to maintain. Of course, the consortium will try to recoup its investment and earn a profit at the same time before it turns over the desalination plants to MCWD after 25 years. Otherwise, why go into business?

That’s why no matter how Daluz tries to sugarcoat the situation, a rate hike is inevitable. Might as well tell it to the public straight so they can start conserving water as early as now.

Of course, MCWD is only trying to come up with a long-term solution to Metro Cebu’s water supply problem.

After all, it’s not its fault that the population has risen rapidly in the past three decades or that more businesses and industries that require a lot of water have mushroomed in its franchise area.

And I doubt it could stop saltwater intrusion into our coastal aquifers or unregulated pumping that is reportedly causing the near depletion of our groundwater sources.

No. That is beyond MCWD’s purview. However, there is such a thing as planning ahead. And I think that’s where MCWD failed. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it just couldn’t keep up with the pace of the metro’s progress so that no matter what it did became a stopgap measure.

Oh well, the price we have to pay for progress.