Zamboanga City

Water rationing continues in Zamboanga due to supply shortage

Frencie Carreon

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Water rationing continues in Zamboanga due to supply shortage

DRYING UP. A section of the Pasonanca River shows a dry water bed as of May 31, 2024.

Frencie Carreon/Rappler

In May, the Zamboanga City Water District aimed for an average daily production of 143.5 million liters per day, but only produced 114.7 million

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines – Zamboanga City has been struggling with months of tap water scarcity, which the local water district attributed to a combination of climate change, population growth, urbanization, poor infrastructure, deforestation, and land use changes.

Since January, the city has resorted to water rationing as water levels at the Pasonanca Water Treatment Plant, managed by the Zamboanga City Water District (ZCWD), and other sources dropped to critical lows. River tributaries have dried up due to the prolonged heat and dry conditions exacerbated by the El Niño phenomenon, complicating efforts to bring water to the treatment plant.

Despite the start of the rainy season bringing some relief, ZCWD General Manager Reynaldo Cabilin reported that the water level is “not yet stable.” As of 9 am on Monday, June 3, the plant’s water level was 73.96 meters above sea level, an improvement but still below the normal average of 74.02 meters.

Zamboanga has seven watersheds, but principally relies on the Pasonanca Watershed, with tributaries playing a crucial role in the city’s water supply.

In response to the crisis, non-government organizations, government agencies, civic clubs, and local leaders have been helping by distributing water to affected residents. 

Sixty of Zamboanga’s 98 barangays are dependent on the ZCWD for their tap water. The other 38 are rural villages, including those on islands, which depend on natural water sources.

ZCWD spokesperson Raul Rivera said the water district has been trying to increase its production, but the water levels have been fluctuating. 

“Our water level continues to rise and fall. It hasn’t really normalized yet,” Rivera said.

In May, for example, the ZCWD aimed for an average daily production of 143.5 million liters per day (MLD), but only produced an average of 114.7 MLD.

That month, ZCWD targeted 58.5 MLD at the Pasonanca plant but only produced 56.075 MLD, while the old reservoir only yielded 9.026 MLD against the target of 20 MLD. 

The water district had expected to draw 45 MLD from the bulk water supplier Prime Water Incorporated (PWIC) but only got 31.530 MLD.

Meanwhile, ZCWD’s production wells slightly exceeded the target of 16 MLD, achieving 17 MLD, while springs, which were expected to contribute 4 MLD, provided only 1.1 MLD.

Cabilin attributed the city’s water supply problem mainly to climate change and deforestation exacerbated by problems in infrastructure and Zamboanga’s growth in terms of population, and changes in land use.

“Rising global temperatures have led to altered precipitation patterns and more frequent droughts, all contributing to reduced water stability,” he said.

Cabilin noted the impact of urban expansion and population growth on Zamboanga’s water consumption. “The increasing demand for water for domestic, agricultural, and industrial use has strained our existing resources,” he said.

ZCWD has also been looking for other sources of water to augment its supply. ZCWD Assistant General Manager Marli De Fiesta led the water district’s technical services group, for instance, in exploring and testing of a deep well in Barangay Divisoria, aiming to supply Valley Subdivision and eventually the entire Divisoria service area.

On May 19, the ZCWD launched a production well in San Lorenzo Ruiz Village in Tetuan. The new well, the 17th in the city, is set to provide water to 927 households. –

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