Managing water resources effectively
EUROPE BEAT - Henry J. Schumacher (The Freeman) - October 31, 2014 - 12:00am

Water management issues will become increasingly important across the Region over the next 20-50 years, as cities expand and competition for water resources from these growing communities, as well as industry and agriculture intensifies. Overall its demand for water could increase by a third over the next 20 years says the 2003 ASEAN Long Term Strategic Plan for Water Resources Management.

A strategic plan of action on water resources management was subsequently drawn up with Australian government assistance by ASEAN in 2005, to advance better practices for water management in the Region. Issues include problems of food security, improving access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation facilities for all, and addressing the degradation of the environment in vulnerable catchments including freshwater and coastal waters.

As existing resources are depleted, expanding urban populations could face supply shortages of drinking water as surface water and groundwater resources reduce.

In some areas there is growing use of bottled water. A 2009 survey found that Indonesia was the second largest consumer of bottled water in the Region, in a market forecast to rise to US$ 2.89 billion by 2016.

Desalination plants are already in general use throughout the Region, especially in Singapore where around 10% of the city state’s demand for water is met from seawater treatment.

The impact of extreme climatic events and their increasing frequency (and we in the Philippines are having plenty of that), added to climate change and variability, are of growing concern to governments in the Region. The Aquino government’s decision to appoint DPWH Secretary Singson as water czar has to be seen in this light. The Philippines and other large coastal populations are particularly vulnerable to any sea level rise, increases in heat extremes and the intensity of tropical cyclones. Extensive flooding is a consequence and has raised water security considerations high on the agenda.

Major cities including Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Manila and Yangon with their large and fast growing populations and manufacturing assets are highly exposed to increased storm intensity, long term sea level rise and sudden onset of coastal flooding. In a presentation at the ECCP Water Challenge Forum, Secretary Singson made reference to that. Flood control is high on his agenda. The ECCP jointly with its partners in the EU-Philippine Business Network  have created a new sector committee which is focusing on the environmental challenges and the need to address water as a finite commodity. Water conservation and water treatment are high on the agenda of the committee members, knowing that communities in the Philippines have to invest in water resources.

A World Bank report observed that most countries in Asia and the Pacific are still in the early stages of making strategic investments to increase climate resilience. This effort is needed to improve early warning systems (Project NOAH of the Department of Science & Technology has done well in developing such warning systems), formulate improved drought management plans, and implement upgraded data collection and monitoring systems.

schumacher@eccp.com

A WORLD BANK ASIA AND THE PACIFIC DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE HO CHI MINH CITY LONG TERM STRATEGIC PLAN MANILA AND YANGON PHILIPPINE BUSINESS NETWORK SECRETARY SINGSON WATER WATER CHALLENGE FORUM WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
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