Giving credence to a study that said this capital city of Northern Mindanao has been mining its stock of groundwater beyond its recharge rate, Mayor Vicente Emano has proposed the development of a stricter regulation on the construction of deep wells.

“We should understand that deep-well construction should be regulated even in subdivisions,” he said.

As the city continues its march toward  progress and development, people also leave the rural areas and flock to the city, thereby increasing the usage of potable water, which the city’s water district can no longer adequately supply.

In their research paper entitled “Metering and A Water Permits Scheme for Groundwater Use in Cagayan de Oro,” Dr. Rosalina Palanca-Tan and Dr. Germelino Bautista, economics professors at the Ateneo de Manila University (Admu), attributed the groundwater depletion in the city to its rapid growth.

Tan and Bautista cited the Ford Foundation-funded survey of the Institute of Philippine Culture (IPC) of private-well owners in the city in 1997-1998 which revealed that groundwater abstraction from privately-owned wells is roughly a third of the water district’s production.

“Among those who enjoy free access to the aquifer are the big industries that account for more than half of this private abstraction,” they said.

?When the study was done in 2001, there were already 269 identified non-COWD (Cagayan de Oro Water District) wells all over the city. Of these, 31 are owned by industrial establishments while 94 are owned by commercial entities. Government offices and entities account for 73 wells. Institutions such as schools and hospitals have 21 wells.

Subdivisions own and operate 22 wells while 28 wells are owned by private individuals.

“The long list of non-COWD wells reveals the extent of private-water abstraction in CDO. Most of these private wells were dug without permission from the National Water Resources Board. While there are more  than 250 wells in the list, there are only about 17 permits issued for CDO by the NWRB between January 1975 and September 1997,” Tan and Bautista said.

Households consumed 87 percent of the total volume of water produced by the COWD, while the rest are consumed by residential, government and industrial establishments.

A 1997 survey identified “Big Industries” such as Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Nestlé, Del Monte, Alwana Wood Products and Misamis Wood Component which have their own groundwater system.

Del Monte alone has five wells with depths ranging from 50 to 125 meters. ?Nestlé has four while Coca Cola, Pepsi and Alwana have two each.

Misamis Wood has only one well. Coca Cola and Alwana are also getting water from COWD.

“One of these six firms reported withdrawing about 18,300 m3 of water from their wells every day. This water production figure of just one industrial entity is already equivalent to more than a fifth [about 22 percent] of COWD’s production in 1997,” the researchers said.

“Overall, the estimated water withdrawal from non-COWD wells amounted to about 36,818 m3/day,” they added.

As the city continues to mine its stock of groundwater, the water table also continues to sink to the critical level.

As the years go by without the city government doing anything to address the continued mining of its most precious natural resource, Tan once again sounded the alarm, this time in front of the City Council Committee on  Environment and Natural Resources during a public hearing last month.

“It is not in critical condition and not in the [intensive care unit] yet but we should not wait until it reaches critical condition,” she said.

This time, she succeeded in getting the attention of Emano, who was vice mayor when she first presented her study in the middle of 2009.

“We should not wait for the time when the groundwater resources reach a critical level and residents would have to face serious repercussions,” he said. 

article by Bong Fabe of Business Mirror

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