Cebu City

Around 50,000 households affected by water shortage in Cebu – water district head

John Sitchon

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Around 50,000 households affected by water shortage in Cebu – water district head

WATER. Residents of Barangay Pasil in Cebu City struggle to fill their containers as water crisis looms due to the impact of the El Niño phenomenon, on Thursday, April 18.

Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

In Barangay Pasil in Cebu City, residents say that they have had little to no water flowing into their homes for over a month

CEBU, Philippines – As officials continue to quarrel over the leadership of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD), severe water shortages have affected around 50,000 households in Cebu.

Lawyer Jose Daluz III, the embattled MCWD head, told Rappler on Thursday, April 18, that a majority of the households affected are in Cebu City. 

Daluz has been up against Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama who wants him out of the water district since May 2023, due to his alleged “unsatisfactory” performance and insubordination. In March, the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) enforced a takeover of the MCWD.

Amid the water district feud, Susan Garcia, a 69-year-old resident of Sitio Mahayahay I, in Barangay Pasil, Cebu City, told Rappler that they have had little to no water flowing into their homes for more than a month.

Rappler visited Barangay Pasil and found that residents have resorted to opening the main consumer pipes found at the opposite end of MCWD’s water meters. 

Garcia shared that she pays around P100 per day to get a porter to deliver 10 buckets of water, about a gallon each, to her home. On top of that, her family pays up to P1,000 a month to the MCWD for water that, she said, “never comes.”

“Di na lang mi makapalit bugas kay ibayad nalang para sa tubig kay wala nay kwarta,” Garcia said.

(We’ll just decide to not buy rice because we have to pay for water and because we don’t have enough money)

Garcia said that she needs water every day since she has no choice but to do her laundry every morning. She explained that because of the intense heat, her family has to bathe and change clothes twice a day.

Trying to survive

Brian Marinay, the team leader of the Pasil Fire Brigade, told Rappler on Thursday that they are on “red alert” for the entire barangay. 

Marinay said that they are aware of the residents’ opening the main pipes and understand that they are doing it to survive the heat.

“Based on what I got from a few residents, there would be water flowing at around 3 am but by 5 am, there would be no more water,” he said in a mix of English and Cebuano.

According to Marinay, the fire brigade has been delivering water to every sitio in Pasil but was forced to limit distributions in consideration of their fire truck’s water supply capacity and preparations for fire incidents.

“Kinahanglan og tubig, labi na sa mga bata ug tiguwang. Labi na karon nga need ang tubig kay init kaayo. Mas prone man gud sila sa heatstroke,” Marinay said.

(Water is so important, especially for the kids and the elderly. Water is needed even more because it is so hot. They are prone to heatstroke.) 

Cebu City Administrator Collin Rosell told Rappler on Friday, April 19, that they are working with the city disaster response unit and other city departments in addressing the water shortage. He added that the city is exploring alternative sources of water.

“We are dispatching a lot of equipment, the water tanks, of course, there’s also the siphoning tanks that will hull and distribute water,” Rosell said.

At half capacity

There are four operating dams that supply water to MCWD. These include the Jaclupan Dam in Talisay City, the Buhisan Dam and Lusaran Dam in Cebu City, and the Carmen Bulk Water Supply in Carmen town.

Daluz told Rappler that each of the dams has lost almost half of its operating capacity, except for the Carmen Bulk Water Supply which still provides 30,000 cubic meters of water per day.

Based on data from MCWD, the Jaclupan Dam, now only provides 20,000 cubic meters of water per day from the usual 35,000 cubic meters of water per day.

The Buhisan Dam provides half of its original 6,000 cubic meters per day while the Lusaran Dam provides 15,000 of its normal 30,000 cubic meters per day.

“In March, the deficit reached 20,000 cubic meters. Then, the deficit became 30,000, 40,000, and now almost 50,000,” Daluz said.

According to him, one cubic meter serves one household, which means that the deficit of 50,000 cubic meters of water per day equates to 50,000 affected households. 

Daluz explained that the MCWD was supposed to address the deficit through desalination plants that would provide an external source of water but were delayed due to “difficulties” in obtaining permits.

“Supposedly the delivery date for the Barangay Mambaling desalination plant was September 2023 but when the contractor filed for a permit at Cebu City it was not given. They got the permit in December so they were not able to meet their schedule,” Daluz said. –

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