Though the Philippines is surrounded by water, only a tiny fraction of its water resources can be used as is for agriculture, industrial activities, and domestic use. Until recently, the country’s few large rivers, underground reservoirs, and seasonal rainfall were mostly adequate for its needs. Unfortunately, a combination of climate change, pollution, and over-tapping of existing supplies has placed the country’s already tenuous water security situation in an even tighter situation.
Without adequate investments in water infrastructure, the seasonal water shortages experienced throughout most of the country may become permanent, endangering the country’s economic, social, and political stability. Strategic investments in national water infrastructure are vital to safeguard water availability and quality. Let’s look at five essential water infrastructure investments that can significantly improve water security in the Philippines:
Table of Contents
1. Water Treatment Facilities
Water treatment facilities play two critical roles. The first role is to ensure that the water tapped from aquifers and other sources is safe for human consumption. The second role is to ensure that the wastewater generated by homes and businesses is safe enough to return to the surrounding environment or reuse for other purposes.
With the Philippines’ population and economy growing, the demand for clean water will only increase, using up the limited supplies of water that could be used as is. Even now, municipal water systems nationwide require robust treatment systems to provide clean water to their service areas.
The Aboitiz InfraCapital-developed LIMA Estate, an 800-hectare mixed-use economic center in Batangas, is now pioneering water treatment technologies that may soon be widespread throughout the Philippines. The estates’ water service provider, Lima Water Corporation (LWC), capable of processing 26 MLD (million liters per day) of wastewater, helps meet the needs of several major multinational locators while also preserving local water sources.
Incorporating advanced filtration and purification technologies elsewhere will enhance the quality and availability of water supplied to households and industries, avoiding water insecurity and promoting economic growth.
2. Hydroelectric Solutions
Combining water treatment and renewable power may be the way forward in areas with suitable hydroelectric potential. Aboitiz InfraCapital’s Apo Agua Infrastructure in Davao, developed to help secure Davao City’s water supply, will be powered by a two-megawatt hydroelectric power plant. In this pioneering innovation employing the “water-energy nexus” concept, the raw running water from the Tamugan River will pass through the hydroelectric power plant and generate clean, renewable energy, which will be used to power the water treatment facility.
3. Desalination Plants
Desalination plants may offer coastal communities throughout the Philippine archipelago a practical solution to process seawater into water pure enough to drink and use in industrial applications. Should the Philippines gain energy independence through planned green energy initiatives, desalination plants may become more widespread, allowing the country also to secure its water future in the long term.
Fortunately, the technologies behind desalination are mature and are widely employed in countries worldwide, including Singapore and the Middle East. In the Philippines, Aboitiz InfraCapital is teaming up with Keppel Infrastructure, one of the companies behind Singapore’s desalination successes, to bring clean water to Metro Cebu. The project may end Metro Cebu’s decades-long water availability issues when completed.
Eventually, similar desalination projects located elsewhere may render the Philippines immune to severe water shortages.
4. Smart Water Management Systems
Smart water management systems utilize data and technology to optimize water usage, minimize wastage, and improve efficiency. These systems can significantly enhance water distribution, reduce losses, and enable better decision-making for water resource management.
These systems will usually require the replacement of old pipes and pumps, which is already beneficial by itself. However, deploying smart sensors can transform water systems, allowing water-poor areas to reduce wastage and better meet existing demand. Strategically placed sensor suites will permit service providers to monitor water supply, demand, and consumption patterns, enabling them to optimize their distribution strategy fully.
Service providers can also use sensors to detect leaks to facilitate faster repairs, conserving valuable resources.
5. Rainwater Harvesting Systems
While new flagship water infrastructure projects will secure the Philippines’ water future, grassroots efforts are just as important. Moreover, we don’t necessarily have to reinvent the policymaking wheel to make it happen.
Republic Act 67161, known as the Rainwater Collector and Springs Development Act of 1989, already mandates “every barangay to operate and maintain a rainwater collection facility, whose components include catchment, treatment, and distribution.”
Enforcement of RA 6716 and other laws related to the development of local rainwater harvesting systems can go a long way toward ensuring that all Filipinos have water security. Collected rainwater can be used for cleaning, watering plants, bathing, laundry, and flushing toilets. It can also be used for drinking and food preparation when adequately sterilized.
Ensuring that all barangays comply with the law and keeping the associated infrastructure well-maintained can plug any gaps in water distribution. Investments in the abovementioned areas will be crucial for achieving long-term water security in the Philippines. These investments will benefit all Philippine stakeholders, from the most remote community to foreign direct investors, promoting economic growth, environmental conservation, and a more resilient water supply.
By taking a more holistic, long-term approach to the country’s water issues, Filipinos may overcome all existing challenges to its freshwater supplies.
- ‘Angara: Enforce Law on Rain Water Collection in every barangay’ (2019). Available at: https://legacy.senate.gov.ph/press_release/2019/0320_angara1.asp (Accessed: 08 August 2023).