Water supply enough for Olongapo, Subic Freeport— SUBICWATER

Olongapo City’s largest source of raw water, the Sta. Rita River, is seen overflowing with water in this file photo taken in September 2018. According to SUBICWATER, total rainfall volume in the Olongapo-Subic Bay Freeport region has increased by 155% in 2018 compared to 2017, meaning that their watersheds currently hold sufficient reserves, and that water shortage this summer is unlikely to happen.

The water and sewerage utility company serving Olongapo City and Subic Bay Freeport has assured its customers that water supply will be adequate throughout summer, even as parts of Metro Manila this early were already forced to undergo rotating service interruptions due to supply shortage.

Officials of the private firm Subic Water and Sewerage Co., Inc. (SUBICWATER) said the ‘significant increase’ in rainfall in 2018 as well as the current condition of rivers here ‘strongly indicate’ that watersheds in the area hold sufficient water reserves.

“The total rainfall volume we received has increased by 155% to 10,450 mm in 2018, as compared with a measly 4,086 mm in the previous year,” SUBICWATER CEO Benjamin “Bubong” Antonio III said.

“This abundant rainfall has fully recharged our watersheds, which are Mother Nature’s version of man-made dams. This huge volume is being held and slowly released by our mountains and forests via our rivers, which in turn supply 98% of SUBICWATER’s raw water requirements,” explained Antonio.

For the first two months of 2019, the flow rates of these rivers have improved by 81% compared with the same period last year, he added.

“These figures, laid side-by-side with the historical and projected water demand in Olongapo City and Subic Bay Freeport, give us some assurance that we will not suffer the same fate of Metro Manila,” said Antonio.


A word of caution

Despite this positive water supply outlook, the SUBICWATER management still advises its customers to conserve water since the state weather bureau PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) has predicted a ‘weak’ El Niño or dry spell from March to April this year.

According to Antonio, there is always a probability that the El Niño phenomenon may suddenly intensify and cause the rainy season to arrive later than usual.

“That is how Mother Nature works,” he added.

Although the chances of it actually happening is ‘weak’, he said SUBICWATER always prepares for worst-case scenarios, especially those that affect water supply security.

“Weather patterns have really become erratic. We have observed that the rainy season arrives later and ends sooner than normal. What’s more, a month’s worth of rainfall can be dumped in just a matter of hours,” he shared.

“The dry season, on the other hand, extends longer than usual. From 2017 until mid-2018, SUBICWATER encountered the worst drought in our history. Rainfall and streamflows were at a 12-year low— we, however, managed with minimal effect to our customers through slight reduction in pressure and scheduled rationing to the farthest and highest portions of our network,” he shared.

In view of these changing weather patterns, SUBICWATER customers were advised to always have backup supply of water stored in clean and covered containers.

“It’s a practice that must be adopted by everyone. Even without a water shortage, utility companies frequently make system improvements that sometimes cause water interruptions. To minimize inconvenience as we work towards improving our services, it is best to have some water stored”, Antonio explained.


Preparation is key

The SUBICWATER chief has urged its customers to use water wisely.

“Even though we predict to have ample supply throughout summer, we must also consider our neighboring towns that were already facing water shortage as early as December 2018. Being in a better position in terms of water supply this year, SUBICWATER has a moral obligation to at least allocate some volume for them should the situation worsen,” he said.

In closing, Antonio stressed that SUBICWATER customers need not worry as the organization is fully prepared to address various factors that could affect water service levels.

“An additional 2-3 MLD of water will be made available with the commissioning of new water sources this summer; a big-ticket project is also nearing completion and will completely fill-in the region’s projected water supply gap for the next 25 years, he said.

“Similar to Manila, the responsibility to provide ample raw water sources is actually on the government— in this case SBMA (Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority). We in SUBICWATER have already taken that responsibility upon ourselves,” said Antonio.

Subic Water and Sewerage Co., Inc (SUBICWATER) is Southeast Asia’s pioneer company which introduced the first public-private partnership (PPP), build-operate-and transfer (BOT) model in the water and wastewater services industry.

The company was formed in light of the impending water crisis in Olongapo City during the ’90s, and the growing commercial water requirements of the booming Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

It continues to meet all its service obligations up to the present time, and has even exceeded the requirements in terms of water quality and minimum service levels. In fact, 97% of its customers receive fully potable water from their taps, 24 hours a day at a pressure of 14 PSI (pounds per square inch), one of the best in the industry.

SUBICWATER is a consortium of D.M. Consunji Inc. (DMCI), a Filipino construction firm; Sembcorp Industries Ltd., (sembcorp) a Singaporean water utility specialist; the City Government of Olongapo; SBMA, the agency that administers Subic Bay Freeport; and Maynilad Water Services Inc. (Maynilad), the Philippines’ largest water concessionaire in terms of customer base.

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