It has been more than a year when Typhoon Odette left massive destruction in its wake. Cebu City was among one of the hardest hit areas, as it suffered property damage worth P1.7 billion.
Apart from uprooted trees, flooded streets, ripped roofs and toppled electricity posts, Typhoon Odette also revealed a glaring vulnerability in Cebu’s drinking water systems. It took weeks for basic services—including electricity—to resume after typhoon Odette.
Water supply was affected after the typhoon, and while the Queen City of the South continued its march towards progress, this basic component of everyday life lagged behind, becoming increasingly inaccessible to its residents.
Should this alarming trend continue, it can threaten the health and safety of Cebuanos and pose threats to their livelihood, food security and local businesses.
Cebu City’s agriculture sector is also reeling more than a year after Odette.
Farmer Eliseo Cantano and his family, one among hundreds of Cebu’s small farming families, felt the impact.
“Life is hard for us upland farmers. The water is sourced from our area but we ourselves do not have water. Our livelihood is affected by efforts to protect the water resource for lowland residents,” he said in vernacular.
In their farm in Sitio Cobcawa in the mountain barangay of Adlaon, Cebu City, Cantano and his fellow farmers said their modest provisions were compromised because of limited supply all over the island.
Cantano’s family cultivates sweet corn, cauliflower, tomatoes, kangkong and pechay.
With the water shortage, they had to endure several instances where crops had to be sacrificed so their household could have enough water to use.
“Water is the most important resource. It’s essential not just to the day-to-day household activities, but also our livelihood. But during a drought, unfortunately, we have to sacrifice our crops to prioritize the needs of our families,” Cantano said.
Residents in other barangays also had to make do with a weekly routine of joining long queues for a communal faucet in their area, only to fill up a gallon or two of water.
Cebu’s water supply problems prompted numerous proposals to the local government in finding alternative solutions to address the problem.
The Metropolitan Cebu Water District —which serves the cities of Cebu, Talisay, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu as well as the towns of Cordova, Consolacion and Liloan—produces 240,000 cubic meters of water per day, which covers only 32 percent of the total water demand of its franchise area.
MCWD said groundwater sources might be compromised because of contamination, over extraction and saltwater intrusion, and it has been exploring alternatives since.
One alternative that has gained traction is desalination as a natural choice for a province surrounded by seawater.
Discussions and debates, including many foreign-funded research and programs, have oftentimes pointed to it as one of the leading solutions.
While discussions continue and solutions are delayed, Cantano, his family and thousands more with stories like theirs are clinging to hope that something will be done sooner than later.