Water crisis looms in Surigao City

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/28 September) – The Surigao Metropolitan Water District has admitted it has been unable to provide enough water to its consumers the past few months due to the ongoing drought and destructive activities in the city’s watershed area.

SMWD General Manager Benjamin Ensomo Jr. said the Parang-parang watershed in Barangay Mat-i, the city’s main source of potable water, is currently producing 120 liters per second. He, however, said that the city’s roughly 16,000 households require a production capacity of at least 160 liters per second.

He also disclosed to MindaNews that ships engaged in quarrying operations in mining areas in Surigao del Norte were consuming huge volumes of water from SMWD, contributing to the shortage.

The shortage has forced hundreds, if not thousands, of city residents to fetch water from neighboring barangays for their daily use.

Ensomo blamed the dwindling water supply on the drought. But he admitted that illegal activities in Parang-parang and neighboring sitios in Mat-i, had contributed to the diminishing water flow.

The condition of the watershed has become critical with the presence of 115 gold-mining tunnels. Last year, there were only 55 tunnels.

Ensomo added that cutting of trees is rampant in the area.

The SMWD tapped three smaller water sources in June 2010 near Parang-parang which were able to meet 18 percent of the city’s water needs.

The new sources – the creeks of Kanmahat, Parang-parang Gamay and Mabini — have a combined capacity of 30 liters per second.

Ensomo said SMWD is now looking for other possible water sources in the city.

Last July, the city experienced low water supply. The problem became worse this month.

In some elevated areas of Barangay Washington, particularly in Capitol stretch, Pag-asa Hills and Silay Hill, the month-long water shortage has angered residents.

Also not spared from the water shortage is Barangay Taft, an urban barangay with the biggest population, where some residents berated SMWD personnel. Its most affected areas are Espina Village and the hilly portion of Talipapa.

Some low-lying urban barangays such as Luna, Sabang, Rizal and San Juan have been experiencing the same problem.

Roverly Morales, a resident of Payawan I, Luna said the people in his place have to wait for 2:00 o’clock in the morning before they could start filling their containers because only at that time would water start flowing from their faucet. The flow would stop at around 5:00 or 6:00 a.m.

“This is an endless problem of our city. Every year we face the same problem, especially during the dry season,” Morales said.

On the other hand, Laurice Congreso of Espina Village, Taft grudgingly found herself buying water at 10 pesos for every container with a capacity of 20 liters.

Her neighbors who chose to fetch water from as far as Sitio Bioborjan in Barangay Rizal, about eight kilometers away from the city proper, complained that it’s so tiring.

City residents noticed that during a downpour the SMWD would usually stop supplying water to the public as the water stored in its reservoir would turn murky and is likely unfit for human consumption. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)