During the “Kapihan sa PIA” organized by the Public Information Agency in Central Visayas Wednesday, March 15, 2023, John Macabinta, Corporate Planning Department acting manager of the government-owned and -controlled utility provider, said 70 percent of the water supply sourced by MCWD comes from below the ground, while the rest comes from surface waters like rivers and reservoirs.
But with the continuous extraction of fresh water from underground, saltwater intrusion has occurred, and this is now preventing MCWD from pumping out more water supply.
This is why MCWD is now focusing on investing in desalinated bulk water supply to cater to the water demand of its customers, Macabinta said.
“Ang seawater man gud dili ma hubas. Unya abunda ta og tubig. Unya naa tay shoreline gyud sa tanang LGUs (local government units),” said Macabinta.
(The seawater will not subside. We are abundant in it, and all LGUs have shorelines.)
Last Dec. 28, MCWD signed a 25-year desalinated bulk water supply contract with Pilipinas Water Resources Inc. (PWRI) and 8990 Housing Development Corp. Joint Venture (JV) for the delivery of water.
The P20.7 billion contract is expected to deliver 10,000 cubic meters (cbm) of water daily in the first year, and then 25,000 cbm per day for the remaining 24 years of the contract.
“Having desalination plants as our major water source is MCWD’s direction now because Metro Cebu’s underground water sources are already compromised due to saltwater intrusion, over extraction and contamination,” MCWD said in a follow-up statement sent to SunStar Cebu Wednesday.
In 2021, as MCWD began to enter into water desalination projects with private firms, Macabinta admitted that “desalination is expensive” while MCWD chairman Jose Daluz III said consumers should expect a rate increase once it begins supplying them with desalinated water.
In July 2022, MCWD announced that it would increase its water rate by 60 percent in July 2023, with a further 10 percent adjustment in 2024—its first rate adjustment since 2015—prompting Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama to call for a review of the utility’s rate hike plans.
Aside from Macabinta, the MCWD officials who attended the Wednesday forum were Water Distribution Division manager Michael Diola and Customer Care Division manager John Dx Lapid.
The officials said MCWD currently produces around 270,000 cubic meters of water per day, which is not enough to meet the demand of its franchise area that covers the cities of Cebu, Talisay, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu and the towns of Cordova, Consolacion, Liloan and Compostela.
But additional supply is expected to be generated once the Lusaran Bulk Water Facility can produce another 15,000 cbm by September 2023.
The P1.2 billion water facility located in Barangay Lusaran in Cebu City was inaugurated last Dec. 8, and is currently supplying 15,000 cbm to the city’s mountain barangays.
Macabinta said once the Lusaran facility can deliver the additional supply, it is expected that the MCWD can start providing water to 13 mountain barangays.
In its entire franchise area, MCWD has to provide water to 204,000 customers, of which 80 percent are households. The rest are “non-domestic” customers like industries, commercial establishments and government offices.
Last December, MCWD said its production of 260,000 cubic meters of water per day from 138 wells and private suppliers, met only about 36 percent of the total water demand of Metro Cebu.
Lapid appealed to the public not to install and use illegal deep wells in their communities to mitigate the effect of saltwater intrusion.
He explained that this is one of the ways to help conserve water sources in Cebu.
Lapid also urged consumers to conduct monthly monitoring and inspection of their water pipelines starting from the meter going to their residence.
“Before sa imong metro, kami bahala. After sa metro, kamoy bahala. Tanan nga leak dira, ikay mo bayad,” said Lapid.
(Before the meter, we’ll take care of that. After the meter, you’ll take care of that. All the leaks there, you will pay for.)
Customers with a toilet flushing system were also advised to regularly check if the “float valve” is still functioning since this can lead to waste water of up to five drums per hour.