27 October 2011

Water Supply System Needs Improvement

Manila Water
According to an Asian Development Bank (ADB) report awhile back, access to public water supply systems had increased from about 60 percent in 1985 to about 80 percent of the total population in the Philippines. According to Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), its concessionaires MWCI and MWSI served about 76 percent of the population living within the MWSS service area at that time.

The figures above contrasted with urban areas outside of Metro Manila, where 88 percent of the population had access to safe drinking water through systems provided by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), local government units (LGUs), and the private sector. By the end of 2002, the share of population served in Metro Manila by the concessionaires had increased to 82 percent.

It is sad to note that the report acknowledged that no significant improvement in terms of coverage is expected in the coming years, and it is not surprising to find out that the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) 2004 target of providing 90.5 percent of the population with access to safe drinking water was not met.

In the MWSS service area the concessionaires lack sufficient water supply to expand their systems. For urban areas outside MWSS' reach the situation is even more difficult. Only 150 of 560 water districts have been able to avail of financing from LWUA, and there is little likelihood of this increasing unless the performance of LWUA is improved.

Even though levels of service generally have been improved in terms of expanded coverage, system reliability and capacity are frequently inadequate, and illegal tapping is common. Inadequate supply is usually manifested by low pressure in the distribution system during peak hours of use. Consequently, suppressed demand for water that makes it difficult to assess the real demand and to prepare adequate forecasts of demand and of willingness to pay.

While water supplied in Metro Manila and in most water districts is generally disinfected with chlorine, water is often supplied without treatment and is of dubious quality in a number of areas.

The key lessons learned based on experience with project implementation relate to systemic weaknesses in the sector in three areas. The first is the inability of institutions to develop new projects and to maintain existing water supply networks and thus to respond to rapidly increasing demand. Related issues are the lack of readiness for project implementation and the lack of transparency and accountability of the agencies involved. There is a need to support the development of new projects and to address the issue of non-revenue water (NRW). New high priority projects must be prepared based on concerted, well-resourced efforts, linked to adequate funding of the resulting investment.