Metro Manila’s water supply in peril amid slow resource development, massive pipe leakages

The China-backed New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project is the only viable long-term solution to the perennial water supply problems in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

However, industry stakeholders fear that any further delay in the project’s completion—on top of climate change, increasing siltation, and unaddressed logistical and infrastructural problems—may adversely affect the stability of the metropolitan’s already dwindling supply. 


“The threat of another water crisis is serious and this should be immediately addressed so that Filipinos will not suffer. We cannot afford to face another water crisis, that's why we must accelerate the development of long-term water resources such as the Kaliwa Dam,” FutureWater Asia CEO Dondi Alikpala said during the Pandesal Forum on Tuesday. 


“A new operating dam is much needed because the Angat Dam, which is Metro Manila’s main water source, can no longer keep up with the spiking demand for water. Simultaneously, there is also overpopulation and climate change that call for an immediate solution,” Alikpala added. 


If not for the numerous delays of the Kaliwa Dam, Engr. Delfin Sespene, Manager at the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Site Operations and Management Department, said Metro Manila residents would have sufficient water supply today. 


According to the MWSS, the entire dam is now 21 percent complete as of today. 


Despite the commitment of the project contractor to complete the project within 2026 and start commissioning the dam by early 2027, Alikpala, who was a former MWSS chairman, pointed out that regulators should also expedite the processes and clearances needed for the full construction of the dam. 


Upon commencement of operations, the dam is expected to generate 600 million liters per day (MLD). Its water conveyance tunnel can further produce an estimated 2,400 MLD — all of these can lessen the current burden of the Angat Dam. 


Angat Dam can currently provide up to 4,000 MLD daily to the National Capital Region — of which 2,400 MLD is allocated to the west zone and the remaining 1,600 MLD to the east zone. 


Water demand from Angat Dam reached 5,680 MLD in 2020 from 4,395 MLD in 2010. Given this trend, the water regulator predicted that Metro Manila will experience a water deficit in 2024. 


Transparent water inventory, swift leakages repair needed 


Another issue hounding the water sector is the leakages along the water line to La Mesa Dam, which MWSS Deputy Administrator Jose Dorado recently revealed. Dorado said huge volumes of water are being lost at the conveyance system before reaching La Mesa Dam. 


As such, water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water, and the MWSS are set to conduct "a massive leak repair" at the conveyance system—from Bigti to La Mesa Dam— to arrest losses in the Aqueducts and improve raw water flow to the Novaliches Portal. 


For his part, Congressman Joey Salceda, who chairs the Ways & Means Committee of the House of Representative, said government regulators should release a transparent inventory of water sources to see the true picture of actual water supply and demand. 


“Unless there is a transparent review of the current supply-demand scenario given the economic implications of a water shortage, stakeholders will remain blind about the current state of our water industry,” Salceda said. 


Alikpala also agreed that water concessionaires should be guided on how they can manage the respective supply available for their consumers and implement mitigating measures to prevent, as much as possible, any supply interruption. 


“The government needs to revisit and re-evaluate how water resources in Luzon are being allocated and distributed. Conducting an inventory of existing water sources and its corresponding MLD/mcm output may give a clearer picture of the collective capacity and whether this is enough to address the total demand for water whether for domestic, industrial, or agricultural use,” he said. 


Whole-of-the-Nation Approach 


As for the end-users, Jose Alfredo Escoto, Jr., Manager for Field Operation at MWSS, said publicly available data can help them understand the current state of the water industry and likewise push them to become efficient and conservative consumers. 


“The truth is safe and secure water is barely within reach for many Filipinos, which is ironic because we are an archipelagic country and we are blessed with rich water resources. The issue of water is already too big and everyone here needs to play their role. Clearly, it is imperative to galvanize all sectors of society – legislators, regulators, water concessionaires, and consumers – to do their share in ensuring water security for everyone,” he said. 


It can be recalled that no less than President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. admitted that the country is facing “serious” water problems that’s why he urged the development of technologies to address the issues. 


“We all know the Philippines is not a dry place. And why do we not have enough water? So we have to employ technologies and make a cohesive policy and a cohesive plan not only in the National Capital Region but for the entire country,” Marcos said during a recent water forum.



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