We would have no water problem if we but save it

Summer in the Philippines begins in the month of March. Probably because of the summer heat, fires are more likely to start at this time of the year, so March is also observed as Fire Prevention Month as a way to remind people to be extra careful this month.

Still related to the ongoing summer heat, we observed March 22 as World Water Day. This was proposed and approved at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Along with other nations, we have since celebrated World Water Day, with “Why Waste Water?” as this year’s theme.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) used the occasion to step up its campaign to encourage the harvesting of rainwater for use during the lean months of the year. DENR Regional Director for Western Visayas Jim Sampulna called on local governments in the region to take the cue from Davao City which now requires commercial establishments to have rainwater catchment facilities, before they can get permits to operate.

One of the country’s biggest water-consuming conglomerates, San Miguel Corporation (SMC), announced on World Water Day that it is rolling out an integrated water management system across its operations, aimed at reducing water consumption by 50 percent by 2025. It will do this by harvesting rainwater, reducing its drawing from groundwater resources, recycling water it has already used, and using water from the sea using desalination technology.

Our warm weather will continue in most of the country for about two more months, during which water levels go down in the country’s dams, worrying both farmers and city water consumers. It is only towards the end of May that the rains begin to fall and our dams begin to fill up anew.

These rains coming during the rainy season and during the 20 or so typhoons that hit the country every year will quickly fill our dams to overflowing, then flood our lowland towns and cities, before flowing out to sea. This is abundant clean water that we could save, if we only had enough dams or even just small containment areas all over the country.

The new Duterte administration is embarking on a major infrastructure program this year, mostly roads and bridges, railroads, school buildings, seaports and airports, and irrigation systems. We urge our government planners to make harvesting our abundant rainwater a major part of the infrasructure program, to end our perennial worrying about water shortage at this time of the year, and make greater use of an abundant natural resource with which our land has been blessed.

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