By Louise Dumas
The Archdiocesan Center of Concern, Empowerment and Social Services (ACCESS), in partnership with the Xavier University – Research and Social Outreach Cluster held a forum on the possibility of raw groundwater pricing to improve efficiency in the water consumption of the city.
This was organized particularly after Cagayan de Oro was identified as among the nine cities in the Philippines with anticipated serious groundwater constraints. Representatives from the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) presented a study showing the depletion of the city’s groundwater levels.
“Through raw water pricing, efficient allocation and utilization of water will be promoted,” said Dr. Rosalina P. Tan of the Department of Economics of Ateneo de Manila University. “This is in addition to the generation of revenue that could be used to ensure the sustainability of the water supply.”
The raw water price refers to the depletion cost of water since it is already apparent that this supply is no longer abundant in quantity and quality. “Among the causes of depletion are forest degradation and urban development,” Dr. Tan said. Northern Mindanao was also identified as a hot spot for total dissolved solids (TDS) and coliform contamination.
Dr. Tan also explained that the pricing should not be seen as a fee but as a contribution. “We should all do our part to address this problem,” she said. “Let us view it as a contribution for the conservation of a resource we benefit a lot from.” Luis S. Rongavilla of the NWRB explained that part of the funds will go to the local government unit for local water development such as equipment and monitoring. Only a small percentage will go the NWRB which will allocate the funds for skills training and other necessary preparations.
Participants from Non-Government Organizations, the academe, church, and business sector also suggested other alternatives that would not raise water pricing but bank on people’s consciousness to save water.
Among the solutions was the use of treated rain water for some months in a year to allow the city’s aquifers to replenish. Another had been to promote individual rain catchments that residents and industries could use to utilize rain runoffs. Finally, a suggestion to improve first the distribution efficiency of the water district was raised to reduce the amount of water wasted.