LWUA on the move as pandemic proves water management essential amid crisis

From taking care of its employees to ensuring water sustainability amid rising demand, the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), the country’s governing body addressing water development in the countryside, is keeping busy as the COVID-19 pandemic heightens the need for the vital resource.  

LWUA on the move as pandemic proves water management essential amid crisis

LWUA administrator Jeci Lapus said there is an urgent need to address the shortage of water supply in the Philippines, also considering that it currently only caters to 23 percent of the population outside of Metro Manila. 

For one, Lapus said funding water supply projects should be among the priorities of the national government to improve access to safe water. 

“Water demand has significantly increased during the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) period. Also, because the ECQ/lockdown was implemented during the summer period, water consumption has significantly increased per household,” Lapus said in an interview with Manila Standard. 

Moreover, the pandemic has prompted LWUA to seriously consider surface water as an alternative source. 

“But we are also aware of the impact of rainfall on the reliability and sustainability of surface water sources. (We are also endorsing) for funding of priority projects that will significantly increase (the) proportion of households with access to safe water,” Lapus said. 

This comes as vital as many Filipinos still struggle to secure access to improved water sources particularly in rural communities, the World Health Organization said in 2019. It said that in 2016, acute watery diarrhea was one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the Philippines with 139,000 deaths. 

During the ECQ, LWUA ensured that the water districts provide uninterrupted water supply to hospitals and quarantine facilities in their respective areas, making them a top priority. Hand washing stations were also installed by the water districts in different strategic locations. For this, it also established an Emergency Response Teams for Repairs and  provided water for public disinfection. 

LWUA also strictly monitored the operations of water districts to ensure continuous water supply. 

Lapus said the COVID-19 outbreak primarily affected category D, or small water districts as their finances dwindled due to the suspension of consumer payments for basic utility services. 

“Operations-wise, all water districts ensured the continuity of water supply to their coverage area despite the implementation of skeleton workforce schedule.”

As a response to the situation of water districts, LWUA allowed debt relief by suspending billings and amortization during the ECQ. It also allowed underprivileged water districts to tap into their mandatory reserves to pay for essential operational expenses during the quarantine. 

Meanwhile, as the pandemic slowed down economic activities, LWUA moved to ensure that its employees are properly compensated. This has allowed LWUA to continue its operations even amid the ECQ. 

LWUA on the move as pandemic proves water management essential amid crisis

It implemented a work-from-home scheme and a skeleton workforce arrangement to continue its operations and gave out hazard pay to employees who reported for work during the ECQ. 

In celebration of World Water Day last March amid the lockdown, LWUA reminded their water districts to continue campaign to conserve water and raise awareness that access to safe water will protect health and save lives.

Topics: Local Water Utilities Administration , COVID-19 pandemic , Jeci Lapus
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