NWRB warns vs. illegal groundwater extraction in MM

MANILA - - Customers face sanctions if they resort to the construction of deep wells or illicitly reopen those that have been ordered closed in Metro Manila to meet their respective water needs amid the ongoing water shortage.

PD 1067 (Water Code of the Philippines) spells out sanctions for illegal well construction and other acts so groundwater and other water resources nationwide can be protected, noted National Water Resources Board (NWRB) Monitoring and Enforcement Division officer-in-charge Higino Mangosing.

"We no longer allow construction of deep wells in Metro Manila," he said.

Mangosing said NWRB will close such wells as Resolution 001-0904 already set a moratorium on the constructing of deep wells to prevent further over-extraction of groundwater in Metro Manila.

"We'll also close existing illegal wells that are reopened without NWRB's approval," he said.

Water shortage continues plaguing various areas which Manila Water Company Inc. (MWCI) serves, fanning public uproar over the matter as well as clamor for immediate and long-term solutions to this problem.

Dipping reserve in La Mesa Dam is helping fuel the shortage, MWCI officials said.

MWCI and Maynilad Water Services Inc. are private water concessionaires operating in the service area of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System -- the government agency for water and sewerage services covering Metro Manila as well as parts of Cavite and Rizal provinces.

Among measures in NWRB's contingency plan for Metro Manila is temporary re-opening of previously closed and sealed deep wells to help critical infrastructure like hospitals to continue delivering vital services to the public.

The deep wells' operation will augment water supply of critical infrastructure and will be subject to NWRB monitoring.

NWRB's plan also includes allowing MWSS to "use its existing deep wells to augment water supply for its two concessionaires (i.e. Manila Water) for the duration of the El NiAo to be used for the affected communities."

A Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration forecast shows this year's El NiAo will be weak and short-lived, lasting until around June 2019.

To prevent worsening groundwater extraction in Metro Manila, Mangosing said critical infrastructure's legally re-opened deep wells are back-up facilities that must operate only when there's water supply interruption.

Users of such wells must still mainly source their water from respective commercial water providers, he noted.

"We'll know if they used the wells even when there were no water supply interruptions in their areas," he said.

Such misuse will lead to the wells' closure again and fines for users concerned, he continued.

Issued in 2004, NWRB Resolution 001-0904 allows groundwater extraction to help ensure unhampered operation of hospitals, fire-fighting stations and other infrastructure providing vital services to the public.

However, Resolution 001-0904 clarified that "extraction shall be made only as back-up to commercial water supply."

Source: Philippines News Agency

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