I HAVE lost a few friends since my appointment to the board of the water district in February. I had been abused, scolded, insulted and cursed by consumers for the lack of water in their households. So had, I’m sure, my colleagues in the board: chairman Joey Daluz, Manolette Dinsay, Mike Pato and May Seno.
I cannot blame them. I used to do that myself. I have written columns excoriating the MCWD board for their failure to plan for the anticipated increase in demand for water as our population grew and the decrease in supply from our traditional water sources.
I would have screamed some more when the pandemic hit us. Wash your hands regularly, you say? With what? Our faucets are dry, there’s not even a drop of water. My faucets were dry, too, most of the time last summer.
I have promised myself and Atty. Cheking Seares, my mentor, to never write about the MCWD while I’m still there. But this one time (hopefully) I will break my word. I have to, I owe it to the friends I’ve lost and the consumers who hate us and are not too timid to let us know. What is wrong with the MCWD? What has kept it from delivering on the people’s expectations? What’s on the pipeline (no pun intended)?
When we took over in late February this year, MCWD’s total water supply was only a little over 200,000 cubic meters per day, coming from its two dams (Buhisan and Jaclupan), deep wells and bulk suppliers. That was not even one half of the total demand of 485,000 cubic meters per day in its service area stretching from Compostela in the north up to Talisay in the south.
The short-term solution was to drill more wells but that option is limited because of salt intrusion into the water table. In fact, some wells had to be shut down because of the problem. The MCWD had contracts for water supply from Danao City and Compostela but for some reason, the suppliers failed to deliver until now. That is why the best that we have done so far was an increase of almost 8,000 cubic meters per day.
In the meantime, water flowing to the two dams was dwindling because of climate change. Tapping water from the Mananga river has been in the plans for more than 25 years but nothing has come out in spite of the many costly feasibility studies. Something is in the works again concerning Mananga but the most generous estimate is that the earliest that we can harvest water from that source is six years from the start of the development. That could very well take us into the last decade.
The only viable solution is to go to the sea, something that the previous boards have also already decided. That is why we are bidding out nine desalination plants with a total capacity 220,000 cubic meters per day. If we can sign the contract with the winning bidders this December, we should be able to augment our water supply by one third of the contracted volume before the end of next year.
Desalinated water is a little more expensive but as announced by Board Chairman Joey Daluz, the implementation of any price increase is going to be staggered. Besides, as they say, the most expensive water is no water, which, if it is not clear yet, is why I am writing this and breaking my word.