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3 Consequences of Poor Water Infrastructure and How to Address Them

Blogs & Features

October 31, 2022

Water is perhaps the single most valuable natural resource for human beings. It is consumed to meet various physiological needs such as hydration, regulation of body temperature, and maintaining vital biological functions. It is also used for daily domestic activities such as cooking, washing clothes, and cleaning surroundings. And in a push for more sustainable power sources, water is also harnessed to generate much-needed electricity and to irrigate agriculture assets, among fulfilling many other industrial purposes.

While water comprises as much as 71 percent of the planet’s surface, 97 percent of this is salt water in the oceans, which is unfit for human consumption and even for agricultural use. Of the remaining 3 percent that is fresh water, 2.5 percent of it is in solid form, mostly by way of ice in the polar regions or trapped far too deep beneath the earth’s surface to collect and utilize. Thus, in reality, only 0.5 percent of water on the planet is fresh water that can be consumed and used by people.

Given this stark reality, proper, sustainable, and efficient water infrastructure is critical to make best use of this scarce resource. Water infrastructure entails systems and technologies that ensure optimal collection, treatment, and delivery of clean water, as well as proper disposal and potential reuse of resulting wastewater. Needless to say, the lack of suitable water infrastructure impacts human life adversely. Here are just some of the  consequences of poor water infrastructure and how they can be mitigated:

Weak local economies

In places where water infrastructure is poor, daily human activity tends to be relegated to meeting the basic need for hydration and nourishment. This means that people spend so much effort looking for and collecting fresh water that little time and physical resources are left for livelihood and productivity. This ultimately affects the economic activity of communities—and ultimately, the entire nation. Inordinate amounts of time spent attaining water security also leads to neglect in many other aspects of daily living, such as learning and education, interpersonal relationships, and overall health and wellness of citizens.

Water infrastructure that seeks to directly support not only residential but commercial and industrial needs is most ideal. LIMA Water Corporation, for instance, deliberately set out to meet the strict water requirements of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for multinational companies and enterprises located at the LIMA Estate. The full-service water and wastewater services provided by this Aboitiz InfraCapital subsidiary has led to a highly efficient water production capacity of more than 10.5 million liters per day (MLD) and wastewater processing capacity of 26 MLD. These not only capacitate businesses for successful operations but ultimately benefit employees, workers, and residents in surrounding communities.

Threatened natural resources

In remote areas where clean water is typically inaccessible, groundwater wells are the common water source. Groundwater is precipitation or rain that collects beneath the surface of the earth and is accessed through digging or drilling.

While groundwater acquisition tends to be low cost and convenient , unsustainable groundwater use may compromise the integrity of the surrounding land and may cause subsidence. As the water table below the earth’s surface recedes, the surface of the land could sink or settle, destroying homes and infrastructure that may have been built aboveground. Depletion of underground water may also occur and affect other bodies of water near the area such as lakes and streams.

In Davao, Apo Agua Infrastructura, Inc. is addressing the local residents’ dependence on groundwater by building a bulk water supply system that sources and treats fresh water from the Tamugan River. At the same time, the company is constructing a hydroelectric power plant that will power its water treatment facility. Apo Agua is a joint venture company between Aboitiz InfraCapital and J.V. Angeles Construction Corporation for Davao City Water District’s (DCWD) Davao City Bulk Water Supply Project (DCBWSP).

Compromised public health

Lack of access to clean drinking water is the single biggest reason behind diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, and hepatitis A, among many others. When potable water is not available, people simply make do with available resources and thus usually take risks in drawing from unsafe sources. Scarcity also leads to lack of motivation or means to observe good personal hygiene such as handwashing or taking regular baths. In the absence of a formal wastewater management system such as toilets and plumbing networks, practices such as open defecation lead to contamination of water sources.

In a developing country such as the Philippines, servicing far-flung or remote communities is a perennial challenge for water infrastructure developers. While difficult given the archipelagic nature of the country, Aboitiz InfraCapital and its partners show that it is not altogether impossible. As a minority shareholder, the company contributes to the success of Balibago Waterworks System, the largest provincial water utility system in the Philippines. It connects over 235,000 households to reliable, highly efficient, and economical water supply that cover 20 provinces across 11 regions. It is a case study for successful and inclusive integration of water resources over a vast area for the benefit of public health and sanitation of underserved residents.

While threats to water security remain constant, there are numerous innovative solutions for robust and reliable water infrastructure that can be employed to address these problems. Aboitiz InfraCapital is committed to developing and maintaining effective and efficient water infrastructure solutions to help the government attain water security for all Filipinos.

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