19oct01-Water everywhere, and it’s just wasted

POSTSCRIPT / October 1, 2019 / Tuesday

Water everywhere, and it’s just wasted

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

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DURING storms, streets in most urban areas get flooded and normal activities are disrupted. The dirty runoff flows into the canals and rivers, then out to the sea, without proportionately adding to the usable water stock in the dams and reservoirs.

Long victims of typhoons and flash floods, why do Filipinos seem to lack the genius to turn these destructive phenomena to their advantage, or at least minimize the damage and tap them for possible benefits?

In another seasonal spurt of interest, legislators are again talking of catching rainfall into cisterns and such storage, processing and then piping the water to households and other users.

The House committee on Metro Manila development approved Wednesday after one hurried hearing a consolidation of three bills requiring new institutional, commercial and residential development projects in the national capital to install and maintain rainwater harvesting facilities.

The panel chaired by Manila Rep. Manny Lopez approved the bills (HBs 4111, 3124 and 4698) sponsored by Quezon City Reps. Allan Reyes and Kit Belmonte and Manila Rep. Yul Servo Nieto. The measure seeks to impose a fine of P500,000 to P2 million for every violation.

Way back in February, Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte filed a similar bill requiring the owner or developer of a new commercial, institutional and residential development project in Metro Manila and other major cities with an area of at least 1,500 square meters to build and maintain a rainwater harvesting facility on at least three percent of the area.

Under his bill (HB 8088), no project design or building permit for a new real estate project shall be approved by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board and the local governments unless it includes a rainwater retention facility.

But for faster results, congressmen can focus instead on improving and ensuring the proper implementation of an existing law – RA 6716, the Rainwater Collector and Springs Development Act of 1989.

The law calls for the construction of rainwater collectors in every barangay to prevent flooding and ensure the supply of clean water during dry season. It directs the Department of Public Works and Highways to build wells and rainwater collectors, develop springs and rehabilitate existing wells in all barangays.

To maintain the rainwater collection facility, the law calls for the creation of a waterworks and sanitation association in every barangay. Rainwater is to be collected from rooftops, then purified in a central treatment system, and pumped to water lines.

 Feedback on rainwater collection idea

REACTING, civil engineer Wilfredo Segovia said the consolidated House bill may have good intentions but suffers from its being a rush job. He noted:

The proposal is discriminatory as it applies only to new construction. It is also punitive, not constructive. The proposed fine of P500,000 is even bigger than the fine for constructing a small house without a building permit.

It is restrictive and unconstitutional, violating the right of a homeowner to choose his source of water. Rainwater is merely an alternative. A house can draw water from its own well, or from a nearby river if clean, or from the water provider.

As water is an option, it is not to be made mandatory. It is like saying your new house must have a solar panel otherwise you will be fined P500,000.

Rainwater is initially dirty. Collected from roofs, it could be contaminated with bird droppings, acid rain, grease and dust. It cannot initially be used for bathing, or worse for drinking.

To use rainwater for flushing toilets, the house must have dual piping, and a rainwater filtration system. Such systems require a lot of capital expenditure, plus the operating and maintenance cost of filters and pumps requiring additional electrical loads. In a country with a six-million dwelling backlog, this proposal will make it more prohibitive for people to build and maintain their houses.

Either scrap the bill or revise it to make it a constructive option, not mandatory and punitive. Constructive means giving discounts for building permits and water fees to those who opt to have workable rainwater harvesting systems.

Reader Elmer B. Sambo asked if the Villafuerte bill is sustainable. He said:

This is a great idea, but rainwater collection is just a small portion of implementing proper storm water management system. The rise of sustainable storm water management, like in Sponge City in China and Climate Proof City in the Netherlands, brings new insight into urban water management.

Conventional method of collecting rainwater into a sewer system as fast as possible is proposed to be replaced with sponge-like cities which use urban planning and design approaches to controlling and reusing storm water runoff.

Sustainable storm water management promotes natural and soft techniques that control runoff at the source, and helps prevent pollutants from getting into the runoff.

However, the uptake of sustainable management is not a barrier-free process. It might not only meet technical barriers, but also social and institutional barriers. The most commonly identified issue is the lack of a coordinated institutional framework. In addition, a close connection between water management and urban planning must be established.

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FREE MOVIES at SM: Today and tomorrow (Oct. 1-2), there will be free movies for Senior Citizens (SCs) and Persons with Disability (PWDs) in regular movie houses in 30 branches of SM Cinema whether or not they reside in the area where the theater is located.

This is SM’s way of recognizing and honoring SCs and PWDs in line with the Oct. 1-7 celebration of Elderly Week under RA 10868. The privilege was extended by SM upon request of lawyer Romy Macalintal, SC and PWD advocate who had requested some movie house owners to extend the privilege on any two days during Elderly Week. SM was the first to grant his request.

 

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 1, 2019. Follow the author on Twitter as @FDPascual.

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