Salceda: PH needs Dep’t of Water Resources

July 14, 2023 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 491 views

A HOUSE leader has said that the ongoing water crisis “calls for the creation of a government department that will complete the circle when it comes to water management, and really enshrine the doctrine and policy that water is owned by the State, and its management is a duty of the State.”

“Our water supply problems right now come in large part from our failure as a state to manage our water resources in a holistic and forward-looking manner. We’ve been in a water crisis for decades, and it took another President Marcos to call it what it is,” Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, said, in response to ongoing water issues among service providers in Metro Manila.

“Our water systems are constructed with little regard for source development. We don’t collect enough surface water, and when we want to, we don’t know whom to talk to in government. We can only tighten our belts so much with demand management. The real issue is supply management, and we’ve been failing for decades,” Salceda said.

Salceda said “that’s why we need the Department of Water Resources. Many people don’t get it. It’s not just another new agency. It’s an institutional solution to a decades-old problem of treating water resources as a peripheral and dispersed concern for government.”

“It’s a great start to solving this problem that President Marcos called the situation what it really is: a water crisis. And we now have a Water Resource Management Office with the mandate to get the DWR done and, in the meantime, implement integrated water management,” Salceda said.

Salceda is the chair of the technical working group which drafted the House’s version of the DWR bill.

Immediate solutions

In the meantime, Salceda said the country needs immediate solutions to ongoing water supply problems.

“Obviously, if we want to save on water, the demand management should focus on the biggest user. Irrigation accounts for at least 80 percent. Water use efficiency is also lowest in agriculture, with the sector yielding P15.61 per cubic meter used, while overall, the economy yields P192.4 pesos per cubic meter of water used,” he said.

“The most economic point-of-view here is simple: We need agriculture to be more efficient with water use. That’s the most immediate, effective, and economical demand management solution. So, we need to invest in more precise irrigation, so that we don’t waste all that water,” Salceda said.

“The other thing is evaporation management. During seasons like the El Nino, you can lose as much as 75 percent of your water flows to irrigation. So, it’s very difficult to maintain water levels in places like Angat,” he said.

“We need to learn from the way other countries control evaporation. There are engineering solutions to that. Some countries simply cover the dams with some polymer. I’ve seen a California reservoir manage evaporation by covering the entire surface of their reservoirs with dark floating plastic balls. We need to get creative with this,” Salceda said.

“We also need maintenance management. Some of our dams need to be desilted. Depth affects evaporation and carrying capacity. Silted dams are naturally shallower. So, dams that have silt deposits underneath could actually hold less water than their advertised water levels indicate. The silt is also fertilizer, so it’s win-win for all,” he said.

“I will be meeting an integrated team of water governance experts from the different national government agencies so we could come up with solutions as soon as possible,” the House tax chair said.