The travails of MCWD: Part 3

By: Fernando Fajardo - CDN Digital | October 30,2019 - 06:40 AM

Based on my observation on the current brouhaha involving the perceived worsening water supply in Metro Cebu, nothing much had been done yet by the Metro Cebu Water District to improve its coverage and performance since I looked into the water supply situation in Metro Cebu in 2015.

In my 2015 study, the water supply situation at MCWD’s franchise area in four cities and four municipalities out of seven cities and six municipalities within Metro Cebu could be summed-up into the following:

1)     Up to 98 percent of MCWD’s water supply came mainly from ground water with the rest sourced from Lusaran Dam and bulk water suppliers, mostly from desalinated water.

2)     Up to 55 percent only of the demand for water in its franchised area was met by MCWD, which led many unserved households and businesses to pump water from underground on their own or buy from private water supply providers that mostly sourced also their water from underground or desalination.

3)     A study made earlier in 2000 reported that extraction of water in Metro Cebu by MCWD and others was running already at over 70% of the recharge rate, which guaranteed wider and faster salt water intrusion.

4)     Poor households not served by MCWD or private providers were forced to meet their need for water from enterprising water vendors, which led to many poor families paying more for every drop of water they used in relation to their income and to those served by MCWD.

5)     In 2015, the rate of MCWD’s non-revenue water was very high at 25% or more, mostly through leakages or possibly to thief.

6)     Due to its high dependence on groundwater using pumps, which are costly to operate and maintain, MCWD’s water rates were found to be one of the highest among the local water districts in the urban areas of the country.

7)     Though part of its mandate, sewerage disposal was generally not being attended to by MCWD.

From the situation above and other considerations, several issues can be surmised to have affected in greater or lesser part to the operation of MCWD. These are grouped in the following:

·       Project Development Issues

·       Operational Issues

·       Economic/Water Pricing Policy Issues

·       Institutional Policy Issues

·       Other Related Issues

For lack of space, let me discuss only the first issue.

Project development involves the whole life cycle of the project, that is, from pre-investment phase, to investment phase, and finally to post-investment phase.

The pre-investment phase starts with need analysis and identification of the project, followed by the preparation of the feasibility study, appraisal, and financing when found feasible in the feasibility study.

The investment phase mainly concerns with the preparation of detailed engineering and design and actual implementation of the project through PPP or other means.

The post-investment phased involves the actual operation of the project and ex-post evaluation to determine if the project was done right and project objectives met.

In view of the fast growing demand for water in Metro Cebu and cognizant of the danger that comes with over-extraction of ground water for domestic, commercial, industrial, and other competing uses, several studies were made in the past to develop surface water sources for sustainable water supply.

The first of these studies was made in the 1980s for the Lusaran Dam. This was followed later on by studies on the Mananga Dam and other projects utilizing surface water from Kotkot, Sapangdako, and other sources, including Malubog.

At the time they were made, all past studies on the use of surface water were stymied by the high cost of investment on developing these projects except for the Mananga Weir in Talisay that was developed in the 1990s and Luyang in Carmen recently.

From 2015 up to 2020, the MCWD’s plan was to increase its water supply from contracted bulk water suppliers or in-house provided. Since the point of exhaustion of ground water in Metro Cebu is about to be reached already once more wells are installed, the MCWD intended to make use of surface water after 2020. As previously mentioned, these are from Mananga Dam in 2021 (80,000 m3/day), Malubog Dam in 2032 (40,000 m3/day), Kotkot Dam in 2036 (50,000 m3/day), and Lusaran Dam in 2041 (100,000 m3/day). Beyond 2050, new source of water supply was planned to be piped from Bohol.

It is just two years from now before year 2021 comes but nothing concrete yet was done to realize the Mananga Dam Project. What we heard instead was for MCWD to sign into another bulk water supply contract with the private sector using desalinated water for its source.

The desalination plant may be faster and cheaper to build and can provide the much needed water soonest than constructing the Mananga dam. In the long run, however, desalination could be more expensive to MCWD and to its users compared to the proposed dam, which although expensive and longer to build, is cheaper to operate and least costly per unit of investment after considering its lifetime.

Unlike Lusaran Dam, which presently produced water very much below its capacity as originally planned, the proposed Mananga Dam’s usefulness at high capacity utilization rate could last longer beyond our lifetime if maintained properly and desilted periodically.

For those who have not read the previous issues of this series, please visit me at this site: https://cebudailynews.inquirer.net/byline/fernando-fajardo

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