Water security remains to be a pressing issue in developing economies all over the world. The effects of insufficient access to a clean and adequate water supply are most clearly illustrated by its impact on public health. Poor personal hygiene can result in the transmission of communicable diseases, while not having access to potable drinking water can result in the proliferation of waterborne diseases like typhoid and amoebiasis. Additionally, poor and inadequate water infrastructure also disrupts business operations and economic activity..
As with any other resource, water security is attained through an effective balance of demand and supply. While great strides have been achieved in bolstering water infrastructure in the Philippines, there remain major threats to adequately sustained water supply. Being aware of these potential disruptors allows enterprises to plan ahead and create contingencies to ensure that their business functions remain efficient and undisrupted.
Extreme weather disturbances
The Philippines has been identified as the country that is at the highest risk of climate change impact, according to a 2019 report by the Institute for Economics and Peace. One of the main reasons for this is the archipelagic nature of the country, being composed of numerous islands with a lot of coastlines. With extreme weather occurrences such as heavy rains and strong typhoons brought about by global warming, water supply may be threatened by flooding. Floodwaters can contaminate clean water supplies with waste material. Water delivery to certain areas may also be hampered by logistical difficulties brought about by damaged roads and transportation routes.
On the opposite end of extreme weather occurrences brought about by climate change is the El Niño phenomenon. While El Niño has been a recurrent problem for decades, its negative effects have become more pronounced in recent years. This is in consonance with the worsening global warming that experts have been warning about. Apart from major consequences on water supply for human consumption and commercial use, droughts have also severely affected other aspects of business operations such as power generation through hydroelectric plants.
Ordinarily, stormwater that ends up in rivers, streams, and lakes serve as the primary source of water for drinking and agricultural irrigation. For this natural resource to be harnessed, however, there needs to be an abundance of trees in watersheds because forests can help retain water in the ground. Unfortunately, with deforestation, mountain ranges are being denuded and land is increasingly being redeveloped in the quest for urbanization. Without proper watershed management, water coming from dams may be compromised, especially during the summer months when demand is high and supply is scarce.
Lack of public funding and policy
In the Philippines, access to sufficient water supply remains largely affected by policies and legislation on both national and local levels. This is especially evident in the sector of agriculture. In far-flung provinces and locations, public infrastructure is vital in ensuring the delivery of water for residential as well as commercial consumption. As such, basic access to water hinges on sufficient attention, support, and funding from the government.
Businesses, meanwhile, are called to a more active role in the situation by engaging in dialogue with both public and private sectors. By assessing various needs and opportunities, and seeing how assistance can be extended to surrounding communities, their efforts can benefit not just company operations but the greater good of many. Stakeholder relations and communication are critical to addressing water security, especially in rural sites and underserved locations.
Urbanization and overpopulation
Rapid urbanization across the country is emerging as a threat to water supply and security. Metro Manila alone is home to 13 million citizens, and major water utility concessionaires estimate that the demand for potable water will increase from 1.6 billion liters to 1.75 billion liters per day. Businesses and commercial activities will have to jostle for supply that is also being prioritized for human consumption in city centers and other urban hubs. A robust population management policy, as well as an urban development master plan, will greatly benefit water security in the long term.
Weak Culture of Sustainability
While conservation of natural resources such as water has always been the battle cry of both public and private sectors, an overall sensibility for a lifestyle of sustainability has yet to be firmly entrenched among Filipinos. Among consumers, wastefulness is still prevalent in individual, household, as well as community practices. Broken and outdated water lines further complicate water delivery and result in more water waste.
In the business community, there remains a lot of unmet opportunities to pivot to more sustainable operations and practices. For instance, water recycling and wastewater treatment for reuse are viable measures that companies can undertake to decrease dependency on public water infrastructure and enhance water security.
While water security may be difficult to achieve, it is definitely not altogether impossible. It is not a task to be borne solely by one sector of society alone. Looking at the success stories of other countries, the key is synergy between businesses and governments working toward the greater good of all.
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