MANILA -- A water shortage that is bringing misery to tens of thousands in the Philippine capital is the "fault" of government, which for years, has failed to build a new water source to meet demand from a growing population, a regulator said Thursday.
The shortfall "will get worse before it gets better" as government officials and water distributors work on short-term and medium-term solutions, said Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System chief regulator Patrick Ty.
Manila Water customers demand 1,750 million liters of water per day, when its share of water from Angat Dam is at 1,600 million liters per day (mld) under a 60-40 sharing agreement with Maynilad Water Services in 1997, Ty said.
In the 2 decades since water services in the capital were split between the 2 firms, the population in the east zone handled by Manila Water has grown "exponentially," he said. At the time of water privatization, the west zone population assigned to Maynilad was bigger.
Officials anticipated growing demand but plans to build new dams were set back due to opposition from various groups. The government recently sought to fast-track construction of the China-funded Kaliwa Dam in Quezon province, he said.
"They're saying it's our fault. Yes, its our fault. It's everyone's fault because we have been delaying all these projects. Right now, we can't rely on Angat. It's just one source. We need an alternative water source and we need it yesterday," Ty told ANC's Headstart.
"It's the fault of the government because it is the responsibility of the government to source all this water. I would just like to make it clear that we are doing something about it," he said.
"This administration, specifically the administration of Duterte, is the one that's pushing for Kaliwa... It's awarded already and it's supposed to start anytime. That is why we're doing something about it," he said.
With short and medium term solutions in place, Ty said: "We are hoping that by next month there will no longer be a water shortage."
The Kaliwa Dam is the "immediate solution for the next 20 years" while the Laiban Dam project, which failed to take off under Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, is the "biggest untapped water source," he said.
Consumers need to conserve and recycle water while government works with water distributors on short-term and medium-term solutions, Ty said.
The MWSS is looking at sourcing up to 50 mld from deep wells as an immediate solution even if it could lead to future problems, he said.
Maynilad also offered to share 50 mld of its allocation to Manila Water, he said.
Manila Water plans to activate its delayed Cardona treatment plant within the month, adding up to 30 mld within the month and up to 100 mld by August. The plant sources water from the central portion portion of Laguna Lake, he said.
The Ayala-led water utility also plans to build a second treatment plant, this time on the east zone of Laguna Lake, he said.