Private water utilities operating in Metro Manila as well as government regulators must come out with a detailed plan on how they will ensure that ordinary households will not be further marginalized by well-off customers and commercial establishments in terms of access to water supply, advocacy group Water for the People Network (WPN) said.
The group stressed that given the tightening water supply in Metro Manila, it is crucial for authorities to strictly monitor and regulate the wasteful use of water by golf courses, malls, hotels, private parks, car wash shops, and other commercial establishments.
It noted that an 18-hole golf course, for instance, consumes an average of 2.3 million liters of water per day, according to the United Nations (UN), causing an enormous impact on water withdrawals. The UN also suggests that a person needs between 20 to 50 liters of water daily for his/her basic needs. This means that water used for an 18-hole golf course can meet the basic and more important water needs of around 46,000 to as high as 115,000 people.
The WPN made the call in light of the statement Wednesday by Maynilad Water Services Inc. that more than half a million of its customers will face water supply disruption starting this month because of the declining water level in the Angat Dam. Water level in the said dam, which supplies 97% of the water needs of Metro Manila, is expected to fall to 176 meters, reportedly the lowest in six years, due to the El Niño.
Maynilad has been serving the west zone of Metro Manila since the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) was privatized in 1997. Manila Water Co., on the other hand, serves the east zone. Because of the prolonged drought, Maynilad said that about 560,000 people in 156 barangays will experience lower water pressure or “shortened water supply schedules”.
The WPN emphasized as well that Maynilad and Manila Water must be held accountable for failing to provide, after more than a decade of privatization, reliable and universal access to water for people in Metro Manila and several towns in Rizal and Cavite provinces, which are also included in the MWSS service areas.
At present, many areas in Metro Manila and parts of Rizal and Cavite, in particular the poor communities still do not have access to the privatized water distribution system of the MWSS. The WPN said that even without an El Niño, more than 3.2 million people in Metro Manila who are supposed to be served by the private water concessionaires do not have access to water. Water losses, mostly from leaking pipes that the private water concessionaires have long neglected, reach more than 1.5 million liters per day.
As a long-term measure, the WPN said government must reverse the privatization of the MWSS and reiterated its earlier demand to stop the planned privatization of the Angat Dam and instead turn over its control and management to the public water sector. (end)
The Water for the People Network (WPN) is a nationwide multi-sectoral alliance of various groups campaigning for people’s control over their water resources. IBON is part of the network secretariat.