BEHIND THE LINES: Agua es vida PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 23 March 2015 11:09



San Jose, CA. — We never learn from bad situations. Sometime in 1993 when we experienced our first destructive drought (the first time I ever heard about this animal called “El Nino”), it threatened the shutdown of the Maria Cristina Grid (ask Engineer Ben Conti for the details, if he recalls them yet) unless rains fell. It was determined by the local government that the only way that we’d have drinking and bathing water was to undertake cloud-seeding and, thus, also save the farmlands from devastation and eventual voracity of the tillers and their families. Yes, it was Mrs. Maria Clara L. Lobregat, then congresswoman, who apportioned P3 million of her Countrywide Development Fund (the now outlawed Priority Development Assistance Fund) for the emergency operation. The Philippine Air Force cooperated well. We had three days of rain, marveled by hundreds of sacks of salt that induced cumulus clouds from developing into nimbus. Those running the water district then vowed that never shall Zamboanga be without water again.

Twenty-two years hence we still are facing the same “black summer” every year. Last July, I wrote that after the June water-rationing scheme ended in October (when the rains and floods come), the water district should look toward the next summer-sad months (2015) because of the expected drought and, therefore, scarcity of potable water. Sus madre, they had 23 years to address the problem, but the local government and water district officials never paid serious attention to it. Why the local government? Because the board directors coming from all sectors of the city, except the religious, — they who determine the course of the water firm — are appointees of the city mayor.

There was a Singaporean consortium that offered years ago to build a water-holding dam in Pasonanca where the source of water is. That offer somehow stayed in either the district board room or locked in the manager’s steel cabinet. Ever since he was hired, Edgar Banos has been hueing, as William the Conqueror did in 1066, explaining the need to conserve water until the next rains fall. When my uncle, Te Jaldon (may God bless his soul), was chairman of the district, they opened deep wells in the barangays as remedial water sources. The wells dry up, too, di ba?

Now, we won’t only need salt, but God’s intercession to produce water. Let’s stop this flummery, shall we? The water district didn’t plan well, maybe because it didn’t have the resources then. I agree that the district should re-pipe and change rotten, old ones with better-quality pipes. It should also, as it is doing now, reduce system’s loss. It came short of installing an important infrastructure that would have eased, if not eradicate, our summer woes.

Turning off your tap is no longer a compromise. It is a must. The drought emergency has been raised, as always in the summer time, and consumers are asked to cut water consumption, by 50 percent if possible. This same alert was raised in California last year. This state that thrives on agriculture is stuck in “historic (water) shortage” with reservoirs receding faster than my hairline and the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada at winter lows. It is reported that California lost over $2 billion last year with some 17,000 seasonal and part-time agricultural jobs lost.

How much water do we use daily? What is the district’s water production daily? Restrictions, not appeals, should be imposed on consumers especially those who water their plants and lawns daily. People should use recycled water for non-potable purposes, like flushing the toilet. Those using booster pumps should be heavily fined or even thrown in jail. Lastly, the water district should find a permanent way out this crisis-repeat-crisis-repeat cycle from devastating our farmlands.

District Manager Chito Vasquez is young, smart and dynamic. It’s time he works towards this fruitful end, something his predecessors never did. Calling in the “Divine Architect” for happiness is not the solution. Asking consumers to bear the brunt for the shortsightedness of past district administrators as if it was the consumers’ fault for not having enough water is too much. Water, more than soda or beer, is a refreshing, reviving drink, as “sunshine is delicious and snow is exhilarating.”

We need to hold the rain when it comes not just for the present but for the future — for life. Agua es vida, ‘di ba?