Cebu News

Groundwater extraction monitoring body mulled

Iris Hazel Mascardo - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — The formation of a technical working committee is now being eyed to oversee groundwater extraction activities to prevent further saltwater intrusion in Metro Cebu.

This was disclosed by minority floor leader, Councilor Nestor Archival Sr. following an executive session to discuss the dangers of saltwater intrusion of the groundwater in Cebu City amidst the El Nino phenomenon.

Invited to attend the executive session were the management of the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD), the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), and the University of San Carlos (USC) - Water Resources Center to apprise the City Council on the current status of the groundwater volume and to discuss the continuous petitions for water permits in Cebu.

In his resolution, Archival cited some reports that laid down the threats in non-regulated groundwater extraction, particularly on the potable water source of Metro Cebu.

Among those he cited was a news report last February 1, 2024 that warns that groundwater extraction should be taken seriously. Archival’s resolution also reads that a new research study also raised the alarm about groundwater supplies around the world, describing it as "dropping quickly, often at accelerated rates."

In a phone interview yesterday, April 24, 2024, Archival explained that while groundwater extractions are no longer allowed, it continues to be done since permits are issued, and private contractors do not have regulations over such extractions.

Archival said that MCWD has no power to issue permits but only NWRB.

“Mu-ingon ang kuha-on 10,000 lang, pero ang kuhaon 20,000. Mao nay dako kaayo nga problema diba,” he pointed out.

Archival recalled that in 2019, there was a meeting with the MCWD board and the city council wherein it was explained that the reason for the lack of water supply during that time is the population boom in Metro Cebu, as well as the over-extraction of groundwater resulting to saltwater intrusion, the nitrate contamination of the groundwater wells, and the moratorium against drilling of the groundwater limiting the supply of MCWD water.

Archival further recalled that MCWD, in an earlier executive session, said that during the El Nino phenomenon, there will be no problem of water supply for those using groundwater. However, they are concerned that after the phenomenon, applications for groundwater excavation may arise.

During the executive session, MCWD representative Limeul Canastra, head of the environment and water resources department, said that the groundwater potential of Metro Cebu comprising four towns is at 250,000 cubic meters a day.

“Mao ni ang pwede nimo extract-kon nga in a year time, ma replenish rani sya, so every year pwede ni nimo kuhaon,” he said.

The current groundwater extraction of MCWD is at 170,000 cubic meters. At least 130,000 cubic meters per day of which are from MCWD alone. These are from at least 100 deep-wells from Cebu City going to Talisay City.

The other supply comes from the surface water. Canastra said that every rainy season, the average production from both surface water and groundwater is at 280,000 cubic meters a day.

“Kani siya, mu reduce mani during summer days kay mu dry up or mu lower ang flow sa rivers kay kaning surface waters nato mga river flows man ni,” he said.

The MCWD groundwater extraction is below the potential of the whole Metro Cebu. He, however, said that this does not translate to the total demand of water supply in Metro Cebu.

According to Canastra, there are areas that MCWD does not supply, which has an estimated demand of 500,000 cubic meters.

This means that these are those who have water sources and majority of these sources are coming from groundwater.

In line with this, Canastra said this shows that the groundwater in Metro Cebu is “over-extracted”.

Canastra said that they consider this as a critical situation as they have a tripartite agreement with the NWRB with the cities of Lapulapu, Mandaue and Cebu City.

“Nga together for us three to complement in safeguarding the resources especially the groundwork resources,” he said.

Since MCWD is a deputized agent for NWRB, the former will be issued a notice of all groundwater extraction within their franchise area for them to act should they oppose or not.

Archival said they are also urging NWRB to come up with a TWC with the LGUs within the franchise area of MCWD in order to regulate groundwater extraction activities. –/ATO (FREEMAN)

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