Let us avert water crisis - DENR
San Fernando, Pampanga (3 April) -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) here appeal to the public to help the government avert an impending water crisis brought about by decades of indiscriminate use of water resources in the region.
A deficit in available fresh water for domestic, agricultural, and industrial use is likely to be felt in the next five years and is expected to become severe by 2025 if conservation measures are not been put in place, explained Regidor de Leon, executive director of the DENR in Central Luzon.
Citing research findings of forestry scientists from the University of the Philippines in Los Baņos, de Leon said the region's demand for fresh water will soar to twice the 12.5 million cubic meters of potential supply in the next two decades.
"It is very important that we protect our water resources and it is critical that we do this now," he said adding that pollution from indiscriminate dumping of garbage, overpopulation, and over extraction of water worsen the problem of water shortage by reducing fresh water usability and recharge of water aquifers.
Increased water demand from a burgeoning population leads to over extraction, and eventually, saline intrusion, he explained, saying that the overall effect is the lowering of the water table and the creation of an artificial vacuum for salt water intrusion.
He said saline water intrusion has affected at least 23 kilometers of the Pampanga River while maximum intrusion has been reported at 45 kilometers inland of the water.
De Leon said increased population likewise puts stress on food production resulting to a more massive use of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to boost agricultural productivity, the surface run-off of which flows through drainage and irrigation canals, and eventually to rivers and seas.
"If we cannot address the present environmental problems today, we will experience a far greater effect of water crisis in the next two decades. Water is life and it is critical to human health and well being as well as to environmental integrity," he said.
About 1.4 billion people today do not have access to safe drinking water resulting to deaths of seven million annually from water-borne diseases, two million of which are children below five years of age, explained Perla Collado, DENR chief of public affairs.
"Each of the eight million people in Central Luzon needs at least 400 liters of fresh water a day," she said, appealing for greater public vigilance and cooperation in the government's water conservation efforts in the face of an impending water crisis in the region.
Collado said simple good housekeeping efforts, like looking out for faucet leaks and illegal connections, and reporting these to authorities would come a long way in conserving water, and so, too are the use of pails and basins for household cleaning and washing, and use of a glass or mug while brushing one's teeth.
She said the Pantabangan and Angat Dams in Nueva Ecija and Bulacan are the only two major sources of domestic, industrial, and irrigation water for Central Luzon, both of which are now threatened by siltation caused by forest degradation of surrounding watersheds.
Pantabangan and Angat Dams irrigate a total of 130,000 hectares of farmlands in Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pampanga and Bulacan, and supply a combined 500 megawatts of power to the Luzon Grid.
Angat Dam is the only source of domestic water to at least 10 million people in Metro Manila, but water in the dam now stands at 199 meters which is below the safe level of 206 meters. This also means that there is 132 million cubic meters less water in the dam.
"We have to make sure that the Pantabangan and Angat watersheds are adequately forested. This would spell either survival or disaster to us all in the next two decades," Collado emphasized.
Earlier, Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes proposed a multi-sectoral approach for the management of water supply sources in the recently concluded conference of the Integrated Water Resources Management Group at the DENR main office.
The conference was called for the collaboration of all sectors in the proper utilization of water resources that shall prevent the water crisis and water-related conflicts in the country.
Reyes has called on all DENR regional offices to raise 20 million seedlings and embark on a massive tree planting in denuded portions of mountains throughout the country.
"If only each of the 20,000 DENR employees would just plant at least 10 seedlings a year, then that's 200,000 trees in a year, and one million trees in five years, more than enough to sequester the carbon emissions of the country's five million vehicles," Reyes said. (DENR III/PIA-Pampanga) [top]