Too Big

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Yes, water woes have been besetting Metro Manilans for a week now, with city folks being served by Manila Water having to suffer lack of water in the magnitude and scale never before experienced and endured. As millennials are quick to point out, “Anyare?”

The scenes are simply astounding — people lining up at the nearest fire hydrant zones, armed with the usual implements for the precious liquid, tempers getting out of hand whenever impatient folks just elbow others to cut lines, expletives ejected when the more enterprising just bring out wash basins and do their chores on the spot. Caught oncam and flashed on TV screens, they demonstrate how bad the situation has gone off the rockers.

It appears that somehow, something has gone wrong. Water regulators are now telling water users in the affected, and afflicted, areas that Angat Dam, which supplies much of MM’s needs, has not even reached perilous levels, to ignite the water woes now sweeping across the Big Cities down under. Apparently, there’s water shortage because of distribution difficulties, something technical than real. Too, the water distributor just shot off water supply without as much as a prior notice, catching the folks literally panting, without pants, for the nearest hydrant.

To folks made to go through the burden of having nothing of the prized liquid, nothing is as real as having nothing gush of from faucets. Reality is harsh, having to suffer through the travail of water service interruption from 6 to 18 hours a day, leaving them a scant 4 hours of their daily life to scamper for the droplets that come as trickles. Reality is bad, having to go through the rigors of being sleepless when finally the faucets come alive.

Now, even PRRD seems to have caught the nation’s pathetic scenes straight in the jugular that he’s talking tough on those who caused the crisis to erupt, volcanic-like, if warranted by a Palace-induced investigation. Lest anyone be subject to Tokhang, it’s always better to get the facts straight and out into the open. Why the water shutoff for more than a week now? Why the water distribution scheme of 6-18 hours of no service, and only 4 hours of the precious liquid?

Speaking of which, it’s about time that we look into our own water situation and find out how equipped are we to contend with water woes in Baguio. Summertime is now and here and every chance they get, lowlanders just trek it out up here for our legendary amenities. Are we prepared for the summer influx of tourists coming our way in the usual droves?

In recent months, Baguio’s water condition may have somewhat been alleviated with the recently completed rehab works on the Sto. Tomas rain harvesting and storage facility. Water supply appears to have been upgraded in the city’s southern parts which consume about 25% of the city’s water needs. Elsewhere, barangay folks aren’t as vociferous as before, their cry for the precious liquid somewhat quelled by water delivering trucks doing good business.

Are we anywhere near the water crisis now sweeping across Metro Manila? Do we have enough water for our daily needs during the peak days of summertime? Are we facing the usual twice a week rationing? Do we have a city-wide campaign to conserve water use, efficient enough for everyone to know, to understand, and to obey simple save-water reminders?
Speaking of reminders, perhaps now is as good a time as any for us to go through the sieve for immediate, short-term, and long-term water-alleviating programs. Down under, they’re talking of increased water infrastructure facilities sourced from dams other than Angat. Where are our new water sources?

Perhaps, the city government can go beyond the usual lip-serving platitudes and put its money where its mouth is. Rehabilitating the Sto. Tomas rain basin that is meant to harvest rain and store it for Baguio’s southern areas has cost the BWD something like P100 million.

Surely, if three other facilities are put up to service the city’s northern, western, and eastern parts, that would simply mean a budgetary allotment of about P300 million. Going by what had been spent the past decade and a half for our trash, said to be an average of P100 M a year, spending for the city’s water needs shouldn’t pose much of an expense.

Interestingly, Baguio is just a breath away from Ambuklao Dam, making this water impounding facility quite ideal for new water sources that we can use on the long-term. Maybe, it’s about time too that a new bulk water supply project be developed for possible public-private partnerships. Rather than looking askance at municipal water sources from nearby Benguet towns, perhaps re-visiting old plans for possible Ambuklao inter-connection would be more doable and technically feasible.

That said, it’s always easy to put in writing what must be done by way of strategic planning. Piece of cake, any project planner will say. All it takes is some mental calisthenics on planning to pin down specific courses of action to achieve stated goals and voila, here’s the plan of action. Little do our government bureaucrats know that going that route is without even the least regard, or much more due recognition of on-the-ground realities that happen when persons and communities are adversely affected by government plans, when certain rights are thumbed down in favour of state-invoked rights.

It’s always good to get going with planned initiatives. Water is life itself, and getting ourselves ready for an eventuality that has struck our lowlander compatriots is ideal in any circumstance. As the saying goes, water is everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Maybe even that kind of a condition can now stand being upgraded for technological wonders to make water, wherever it comes from, safe, clean, potable, and affordable.

About time we look at water as not much, not too big of a need, when the resolve is firm, resolute, and uncompromising. Because, to reiterate, water is life itself.

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