Water crisis hits Surigao City

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 30 May) – Extreme drought brought down the water level in the Parang-Parang Watershed into critical level that resulted in inadequate water supply in the city.

The Surigao Metropolitan Water District (SMWD) said that it has been a month now that they are facing a lack of water supply.

SMWD general manager Benjamin R. Ensomo Jr. said the Parang-Parang Watershed, the city’s main source of potable water, now only has 10 inches of water at the mini-dam. On normal days, water level is at one or two meters high, he noted.

“Right now we can supply 13 million liters – 13,000 cubic meters – per day or,” Ensomo told MindaNews. But the problem is, current demand is 19,000 cubic meters, he pointed out.

Comparative data of water supply from the months of January to April for the years 2012 and 2013 showed a downward trend, Ensomo said.

January last year, water supply reached 596,050 cubic meters. Same time this year, it is only 557,473 cubic meters. February last year, it was 519,385 cu.m., but only 509,472 cu.m. this year.

It was only for the month of March that supply somehow stabilized – 568,295 cu.m. last year as compared to 567,457 cu.m. this year.

But April again showed a drastic drop in the water volume – from 564,215 cu.m. to 500,859 cu.m.

Ensomo stressed that over the last 10 years, the city never experienced water shortage in the months of April and May.

He admits that he did not anticipate water shortage as early as these months of the year. He pointed out that water shortage usually occurs in the months of July to September.

Ensomo said they are currently fast-tracking projects tapping other water sources in the neighboring municipalities of Sison and San Francisco in Surigao del Norte. These projects will be operational this year and expected to generate a total of 240 liters per second.

These water sources, he said, are outside the Parang-Parang Watershed area.

Ensomo attributed the water shortage to the lesser volume of rainfall and the increasing number of water consumers, which now number 19,000. And SMWD expects an additional 3,000 more this year.

To help solve the problem, Ensomo said they divided Surigao City into areas to ration water supply. While many are complaining, he said this approach has its benefits as even those living in elevated areas do get their water as the lines in other areas are shut down.

“We don’t use fire trucks (to deliver water to remote areas) anymore because it’s expensive and the people will be hassled because of the long queues,” he said.

Several water consumers have expressed dissatisfaction on the water utility’s performance because the shortage has become a yearly occurrence.

Roverly Morales, of Payawan 2 in Barangay Luna, lamented that his faucets are dry during the day, the water coming out only between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.

“I have to keep awake until midnight or 1 o’clock in the morning so I can fill all the water containers we have,” he complained. It takes him about two hours to fill all their water containers for the family’s needs all day.

Morales said the situation is so disturbing because aside from the water shortage, they still have to deal with rotating brownouts. He calls it a “double whammy.”

Several Facebook users ranted on their wall over the water shortage. One of them, Lhord Peter Bigay, complained he stank all day because he couldn’t take a bath.

Businessmen expressed dismay, too. Willy A. Gan, president of the Surigao Chamber of Commerce and Industries (SCCI), said the water shortage, coupled with the rotating brownouts, has greatly affected the business sector in the city.

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