The Manila Water Crisis: Climate Change Calling or Management Crisis?

Article by: Anusha T.

Edited by: Razel S.

Visual by: Yana P.

As many of you may have heard, areas in Metro Manila have been experiencing intermittence in water supply. But let’s start with the basics: all of Metro Manila’s water is sourced by 2 major companies: Maynilad, who gives water to the entire population in the west side of Metro Manila, and the Manila Water, who gives water to the east side. These two companies draw water from the Angat Dam and the La Mesa Dam.

The original cause of this crisis was thought to be the impact of the El Niño weather phenomena, the irregular cycle of extreme weather changes. El Niño’s impact on water shortage has intensified through the years due to climate change. As a result, the force of El Niño has extended for longer periods of time, leading to the biggest water shortage Metro Manila has encountered.

However, the dramatic increase in the low levels of water is due to the mismanagement of Manila Water. Manila Water agreed to create a new dam in anticipation of the east area of Metro Manila growing at a higher rate than what the La Mesa dam can supply. However, due to delays, the construction of the damis now only supposed to be finished in August.

ISM students have also been facing the burden of water shortage in their homes. One student, Anushka V., opened up about her experience of facing the daily struggles of this crisis. She says, “It was hard to do a lot of daily activities, like washing my face or taking a shower…[the lack of water] mess up your whole routine, especially since these are the small things that we take for granted”.

In hindsight, this 2019 water shortage isn’t something that was unexpected. In 2016, The Manila Times stated that “the total freshwater resources in the Philippines is about 149.5 billion cubic meters per year. The Philippines’ total water demand is about 81.6 billion cubic meters per year. That sounds like a healthy margin, but the surplus is rapidly shrinking year after year as the population and the economy grow”. In 2018, the population and economy has grown without any water saving implementations and, as a result, we are facing water droughts all over Metro Manila.

So, what can we do to help our fellow Metro Manila residents in this crisis?  Abhinav S., the president of Sustainability Council, provided tangible ways in which members of the ISM community can conserve water, which, in turn, will aid a speedier resolution to the current water shortage. He provides 4 strategies.

  1. “Don’t keep the water running while you’re washing your face, brushing your teeth and shaving.
  2. Reuse a towel by hanging it to air-dry before putting it in the laundry basket.
  3. Take shorter showers or start taking bucket showers so you can control the amount of water you spend.
  4. Don’t wash clothes every day and instead stagger them in groups throughout a week and use fewer dishes and utensils.”.

As a part of the Metro Manila community, it is our responsibility to conserve water. We hope that water shortage can soon be resolved, so water can restored to every area in Metro Manila.