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The importance of testing water quality in Philippine communities


August 25, 2023

Researcher holds a test tube with water

A tropical and archipelagic domain, the Philippines is surrounded by water and receives plentiful amounts of precipitation each year. Despite the seeming abundance of this essential resource, however, an astounding 11 million people in the country still lack access to clean water. This is according to the 2023 National Water Resources Board (NWRB) estimate. To cope with this challenge, many communities depend on unprotected sources such as wells and springs for their everyday water supply. Notably, 28% of the rivers considered responsible for global plastic pollution are also found in the country. There’s a good chance, then, for people and families who use these unprotected water sources to be exposed to various pollutants and contaminants.

Assessing a water source’s suitability for particular activities such as drinking, recreation, or agricultural use is a crucial part of improving access to clean water in the Philippines. This is because testing water quality can help local communities, government agencies, and water infrastructure developers do the following:

Ensure that water resources are safe for use

Water plays a vital role in various aspects of daily life, from drinking and cooking to personal hygiene and sanitation. It’s also integral to the agriculture and industrial sectors, which contribute greatly to the country’s economy. Without clean sources of water, communities will not be able to function, hindering their overall well-being and productivity.

Testing water quality regularly is a proactive approach to ascertaining the safety of community water sources. Facilities such as the Apo Agua Laboratory, which was recently accredited by the Department of Health (DoH) for Drinking Water Analysis, can determine the presence of potential contaminants in drinking water that might pose health risks. The work of the laboratory is crucial to monitoring and maintaining the quality of water to be processed by Aboitiz Infracapital’s Apo Agua Infrastructura, a bulk water supply facility in Davao City. Water quality testing allows the identification of water sources that carry bacteria, pathogens, heavy metals, and harmful chemicals. This, in turn, enables authorities to take necessary measures to mitigate risks and safeguard public health. 

Prevent the outbreak of waterborne diseases

Waterborne diseases are a significant public health concern in many parts of the world, including the Philippines. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), more than 50,000 cases of waterborne diseases were recorded every year between 2010 and 2019. Contaminated water can act as a carrier for various disease-causing agents, leading to the rapid spread of illnesses among the population. Waterborne diseases like cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis can have devastating effects on communities, causing widespread sickness and even fatalities.

Preventing the outbreak of waterborne diseases requires regular water testing. Monitoring water sources enables authorities to detect and address potential contamination issues early on, thereby minimizing the risk of disease transmission. By implementing measures to prevent the spread of diseases and ensuring that water quality meets safety standards, communities can reduce the incidence of waterborne illnesses and the devastating effects of outbreaks on vulnerable individuals. 

Monitor the state of natural water resources

environmental engineer with water sample

The quality of water sources in the Philippines has a direct impact on the health of communities, the economy, and the environment. Many local water providers depend on natural resources such as rivers, lakes, and groundwater to supply the daily water needs of the communities they serve. Apo Agua Infrastructura, for instance, taps the Tamugan River as a sustainable water source for the Davao City Water District. Additionally, healthy aquatic ecosystems support fisheries and agriculture, which are important sectors of the country’s economy.

It’s a must to test water quality in these areas regularly to assess the state of these natural resources. Regular analysis provides valuable data on pollution levels, trends, and changes over time. With this information, authorities can develop targeted strategies for water resource management and conservation. By understanding the health of water sources and the factors influencing their quality, communities, and policymakers can work together to implement sustainable practices, protect ecosystems, and secure water availability for future generations.

Comply with water quality standards

Compliance with water quality standards is not only a matter of public health but also an indicator of responsible governance and environmental stewardship. It’s a must for the Philippines, therefore, to meet the established international standards for water quality. This is an essential aspect of attaining sustainable development and fostering economic growth.

Improving water standards begins with identifying where a community currently lies in terms of water quality. Regular testing for water quality allows authorities to assess whether water sources meet the required standards or not. In the case of the latter, the concerned agencies can take appropriate measures to improve the quality of water sources. Additionally, testing helps identify areas where clean water access is limited, prompting targeted interventions to address disparities and provide equitable access to safe drinking water for all communities.

Effectively manage water resources

Drop of water

Effective water resource management requires a comprehensive understanding of water quality and availability. Regular monitoring and testing of water quality facilitate the gathering of data that can guide policymakers and resource managers in making sound decisions. By analyzing water collection and use, looking into trends, and identifying emerging issues, authorities can allocate water resources more effectively. This will also enable them to develop water conservation strategies that suit their particular environment. In addition, water testing makes it easy to identify pollution sources and determine the most appropriate remedial actions for these issues.

Adequately prepare for natural disasters

The Philippines is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, such as typhoons and flooding, which can severely impact water quality and availability. These events can lead to contamination of water sources through various mechanisms, including runoff from industrial areas and agricultural fields. In the aftermath of disasters, access to clean water becomes even more critical for emergency response and recovery efforts.

Regularly testing water quality enables communities and authorities to better prepare for natural disasters. By establishing baseline data on water quality in different areas, authorities can quickly identify changes and contamination events after disasters occur. This information aids in assessing the extent of water source damage, coordinating relief efforts, and implementing targeted interventions to restore water quality and availability in affected regions. Taking proactive measures to ensure water quality during disaster preparedness planning enhances a community’s capacity to cope with the challenges posed by natural calamities.

Testing water quality in the Philippines is an essential aspect of safeguarding public health, protecting the environment, and ensuring sustainable development. By investing in regular water quality monitoring and promoting responsible water resource management, communities can secure access to clean and safe water, which is a necessity for improving living standards and long-term economic prosperity.

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