THE Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) called for support to help secure the future of water resources in the Philippines, especially in far-flung areas that lack water supply and services.
In a sideline interview during the forum dubbed “Every Drop Counts: A High-Level Dialogue for a Water-Secure Country” that was held on Monday in Parañaque City, LWUA Chairman Ronnie L. Ong told reporters that there are still some 11 million families without access to clean water.
This, according to Ong, reflects that water security in the Philippines remains a far-fetched vision despite a survey by the Social Weather Stations in December 2022, which showed that 67 percent or 17 million Filipino households had already access to running or piped water.
Ong attributed the problem to the limited availability of this very basic necessity to the worsening water leakage problem nationwide due to old pipes and meters, poor water collection, and illegal connection, among others. In fact, he cited that around 448 million metric tons of water is being lost annually.
The so-called systems loss or non-revenue water (NRW) is as high as 70 percent in different provinces across the country. In LWUA’s case, 20 out of the 532 water districts under its auspices have leakages at above 40 percent. Such figures translate to a 30-percent average of NRW in the Philippines, or more than half of the global mean of 20 percent.
“I know the numbers are higher. I’m looking at around 40 percent to 50 percent,” Ong said in mixed Filipino and English. “That’s one of the main concerns that we need to address. So we’re asking for help from the Congress if they could fund and assist our water districts in fixing the leakages.”
For him, proper funding in the resolve of bringing down the country’s NRW to the global level could trickle down to the remedy of other related issues.
“If we can at least solve the water loss, it can also have an impact in the delivery of water in every household. It will become efficient. Also, the price of water will go down,” he noted. “That’s one of the things that we’re trying to do in the short-term.”
Barely four months after he was appointed as chairman of the Board of Trustees of LWUA last May 24, the former legislator currently works on streamlining the operations of the government’s arm in promoting and overseeing the development of water supply systems in provincial cities and municipalities.
“For now, we’re doing the housekeeping. We mitigate bureaucracy, as much as possible zeroing on the red tape. Fast implementation of projects is very important,” Ong said. ”Like I told to myself, ‘it’s not business as usual because we really have an emergency for water.’ So work must not slow down.”
Mindful of today’s digital era, the LWUA chairman underscored the importance of modern technologies and innovative solutions that can revolutionize water management and security.
He pointed out the significance of adopting digitalization in improving water delivery and services, while noting that there are digital systems that still work even without an internet that water districts could tap to bring the much needed water even in isolated areas.
“We are going into that. That’s, hopefully, [would be] one of the things that we can do in the next three years. We really need digitalization for efficiency of all,” he said. “Hopefully, in the long-term, we can bring water to our 11 million kababayans without access to this most precious resource.”
“Every Drop Counts” forum featured panel discussions, each of which highlighted crucial facets of the complex water security equation: Finance and Water Security, Water Governance, and Digitalization, Technology, and Infrastructure.