Domestic water use eyed as priority in Laguna Lake
(The Philippine Star) - November 11, 2019 - 12:00am

The government is mulling to make the use of domestic water a priority in Laguna Lake amid the continued supply crunch in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

MANILA, Philippines — The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) is planning to discuss with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) how to go about the protocols needed to prioritize water in Laguna Lake.

MWSS administrator Emmanuel Salamat said challenges remain in treating Laguna Lake water.

Both concessionaires Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc. are tapping and treating water from the lake.

“The water quality greatly affects cost and efficiency of water for domestic use. For me, more of contaminants and pollutants are coming by other facilities including commercial and industrial areas,” Salamat told The STAR.

“While the Laguna Lake’s use is divided, domestic use should still be the priority so we can optimize the water in the lake while we are looking for other water sources,” he added.

During the recent Cabinet meeting, MWSS proposed that there be an inter-agency task force on water supply and sewerage and sought that the Laguna Lake be declared as a vital source of water which needs protection and security.

“We want to know what will be the limitations and boundaries once we be allowed to declare that Laguna Lake is a vital source. We will push for limitation and zoning in the ecosystem to improve Laguna Lake,” Salamat said.

For its part, the LLDA maintained that one of the priorities of the multiple-use lake is for the domestic supply.

LLDA Department Manager for Resource Management and Development Lennie Santos-Borja said as early as 1970s, water resources studies have predicted that Laguna Lake will be used for domestic supply starting 2000s.

Currently, Laguna Lake water has remained at class C which is for the propagation and growth of fish and other aquatic resources, recreational water class such as boating, and industrial water supply class from manufacturing processes after treatment.

“While it is Class C, it is also compatible for other uses that’s why Maynilad was the first to secure a permit to put up a waste water treatment plant and they know the quality of Laguna Lake,” Borja told The STAR.

“Under the Water Code of the Philippines, for domestic use is the priority especially with the current situation where a lot of people are being affected by the water crisis,” she added.

The approximately 90,000-hectare lake with a volume of 1.3 billion cubic meters is surrounded by several industries. For aquaculture, 9,200 hectares is occupied.

Borja said Maynilad and Manila Water’s water extraction from the Laguna Lake is still negligible. Maynilad has the 300 MLD Putatan treatment plants, while Manila Water has the 150 MLD Cardona plant.

“There are a lot of industries and by laws, we implement the Clean Water Act but there are still those who violate the law. For such a long time, Laguna Lake water is class C due to untreated agriculture and commercial wastes,” Borja said.

Borja noted that LLDA will now revisit the water balance of Laguna Lake as to how much water can actually be allowed to be extracted so as not to compromise the other industries as well.

“The Laguna Lake is an ecosystem, it’s not possible that you only have one variable. We need to improve water quality to a higher level,” Borja said.

“We need to start upgrading the classification. It’s not like we start now, and then next week, it’s good to go. Lakes do not behave that way, it will take time for a lake to recover,” she added.

LLDA maintained it will adhere and abide to any call from the government to start prioritizing Laguna Lake for domestic use.

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