IN an interview this week, an official of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) urged local government units to consider imposing a temporary ban on non-vital uses of water, such as filling inflatable swimming pools and car-washing, to help ensure adequate water supplies through the anticipated upcoming dry season brought on by the El Niño climate phenomenon.
“The amount of water being consumed by these practices is huge,” Jose Dorado Jr., deputy administrator for engineering and technical operations group of the MWSS, said in an interview with a government television station.
Dorado went on to suggest that LGUs should consider passing the relevant ordinances when the reservoirs that provide Metro Manila's water supplies drop to critical levels, and that swim resorts and other recreational facilities should also be directed to use their water for more essential needs.
The National Water Resource1s Board (NWRB), however, thumbed down the MWSS's recommendations, arguing that there are “other ways” for people living in Metro Manila to conserve water.
“We can help conserve water by recycling. During the dry season, during which rain falls sometimes, we can draw water from it and then recycle the rainwater for our needs,” NWRB Executive Director Sevillo David Jr. said in reaction to the MWSS comments. He also suggested that MWSS concentrate its efforts on repairing leaking water supply pipes, although MWSS had earlier already publicly acknowledged that problem and directed its two water concessionaires, Maynilad and Manila Water, to ramp up their efforts in that regard.
Comparing the opposing views from two of the agencies that each have an enormous responsibility in guiding us through the impending water crisis, we have to conclude that the MWSS is exercising some forethought, while the NWRB is displaying an alarming detachment from reality.
Although temporarily banning nonessential water use such as swimming pools and washing cars would impose some inconvenience on people, they are the rational first step in conserving water resource1s. If water supplies are under threat, eliminating luxuries that are not necessary for health and hygiene reduces the likelihood that more severe cuts or rationing will be necessary later. It is, as the colloquial saying goes, a no-brainer, and it is rather disturbing that an agency like the NWRB would argue against it. To eliminate the impression that officials of that agency may have motives other than ensuring adequate water supplies in disagreeing with the recommendations of the MWSS, perhaps Director David or others from the NWRB should explain why, in their view, those recommendations work against the goal of water security.
The alternative suggested by the NWRB, that Metro Manila households collect rainwater, is likewise unrealistic. Many households simply do not have the means to save rainwater — to say nothing of the fact that precious little rain has fallen on Metro Manila in the past weeks, and very little can be expected for several more weeks or longer. Even for those who do, the Department of Health (DoH) has already issued a caution about potential ill health effects from storing rainwater, such as bacterial contamination, or more commonly, providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry dengue fever. Certainly, if one has the means to safely collect and store rainwater, one should do so; but the number of people who actually can, at least in the densely populated metro, is so limited that it would make no difference to the overall water supply situation.
Whether or not any LGUs follow the MWSS recommendations, they are a good reminder to everyone to re-evaluate their water use, and to conserve where possible. You need water for drinking, cooking, hygiene and sanitation to stay healthy; other uses can wait, even if it may be a bit unpleasant. Your car will still function properly if it is dusty, and your children, though they will be disappointed, will certainly survive a few weeks or a season without the use of the inflatable swimming pool. In order for everyone to get through the water crisis, and ideally, to avoid having a water crisis at all, everyone needs to do their part, whether one is responsible for a government agency, or for managing an ordinary household.
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