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Water czar seeks proposals to counter urban flooding

By Catherine J. Teves

MANILA, July 11 — Philippine water czar and public works secretary Rogelio Singson rallied the country's scientific community to help develop interventions for addressing the worsening flooding problem in urban areas nationwide, convinced excess water that wrecks communities there can be put to good use instead.

He noted onslaught of pollution, environmental degradation, rising urbanization and intensifying rainfall due to climate change raise urgency for such interventions.

"We need to find ways of reducing urban flooding," he said Wednesday in his keynote speech during the National Academy of Science and Technology's 34th Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) in Manila.

Members of the scientific community can email him their respective proposals (rogelio_singson@yahoo.com) so these can be evaluated for possible implementation, he said.

"This administration changed the way government has been spending – we want more scientifically based long-term solutions," he noted.

Singson is particularly keen on hearing about proposed interventions for re-injecting excess water into the natural aquifer.

The aquifer is already drying up due to over-extraction of groundwater and must be recharged, he noted.

"We have excess rainwater so the theoretical solution is to inject this into the aquifer instead of merely letting it flow into the ocean – that's a challenge I'm posing to our scientists," he said.

He also welcomes proposals for harvesting rainwater so this resource can be collected, stored and used when needed – lessening demand for groundwater.

Such harvesting will help lower volume of rainwater flooding communities as well.

Data presented during ASM show the Philippines has an average rainfall of 2,400 millimeters per year.

"That's a lot of rainfall," Marine Science Institute professor Fernando Siringan said during his presentation at ASM.

He noted rainfall isn't uniformly distributed across the country, however.

"We have to plan around spatio-temporal variation of rainfall," he said.

Siringan acknowledged continuing extraction of groundwater remains a problem across the country.

"Most local government units use groundwater as source of potable water," he said.

He noted earlier studies indicate such practice already began taking a toll on urban areas nationwide.

One of such studies identified Metro Manila, Cebu, Baguio City, Angeles City, Zamboanga City and Cagayan de Oro City as among urban centers reeling from groundwater stress, he said.

Earlier studies further show several communities losing groundwater are suffering from water shortage and contamination as well as saltwater intrusion, he noted.

He said some areas in Metro Manila are also sinking already.

"One recommendation therefore is to designate groundwater as a reserve and not a primary source of potable water," Siringan said.

Use of surface water as primary potable water source must increase significantly, he noted.

Authorities also said groundwater needs recharging to help avoid consequences of its over-extraction.

To help address flooding and meet water demand, Singson said government earlier commenced undertaking several upstream water impounding activities.

"We adapted a new water management approach," he said.

He noted government adapted such approach since what happens upstream affects areas downstream. (PNA)

/CTB/CJT/mec

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