leached into surface and ground waters fromagricultural activities…”Hinrichsen and Tacio emphasize how developedcountries have a much higher per-capita water usage (andthus greater demand) than developing countries. Lowhousehold use in developing countries also reflects thedifficulty many people have in obtaining clean water.However, the authors are quick to point out that thispattern is changing dramatically, as countries becomepredominantly urban and demand for piped waterincreases. Through this, Hinrichsen and Tacio lay thegroundwork for a discussion of intersectoral competitionthat is more thoroughly dealt with in the second article.Finally, Hinrichsen and Tacio examine the degradationof water supplies and the effect such degradation has onincreased demand and consumption. Pollution (bothagricultural and industrial) is a problem faced bydeveloped and developing countries alike. As pollutioncontinues, current sources of clean water either willbecome unusable or will require clean up at great cost toeither governments or consumers. All of these issues arevividly highlighted in the article’s case study from thePhilippines. Authoring the case study, Tacio detailsexamples from throughout the archipelago to illustratethe trends of inadequate supply, polluted sources, andlack of access—all in a country that, as one of the wettestin Southeast Asia, is commonly perceived as water-rich.
Water Crisis: The Case of the Philippines
“…The country’s water is supplied by rainfall as wellas rivers, lakes, springs, and groundwater. Withchanging weather patterns worldwide, rainfall isgrowing scarcer. The little that comes from theheavens is collected, or wasted, in watersheds withbalding forests. As a result, there has been adramatic drop of from 30 to 50 percent in thecountry’s available stable water resources in the pastthree decades.“A recent report released by the PhilippinesDepartment of Environment and NaturalResources (DENR) said that 90 percent of 99watershed areas in the country are “hydrologicallycritical” due to their degraded physical condition.Massive destruction of the once-productiveforested watersheds by illegal loggers anduncontrolled land use from mining, overgrazing,agricultural expansion, and industrialization havecontributed to water depletion.
“Worse, excessive soil erosion is hastening thedestruction of watershed areas. The DENR reportstated that 36 of the country’s 75 provinces in thecountry are severely affected by soil erosion. Twoprovinces—Cebu and Batangas—have lost morethan 80 percent of their topsoil to erosion. In Luzon,the four major basins—Bicol, Magat, Pampanga andAgno—are in critical condition due to acute soilerosion and sedimentation.“River pollution also contributes to the country’scurrent water problem. Out of 418 rivers in thePhilippines, 37 have been classified as polluted, whilethe rest are seriously polluted. The DENR’sEnvironmental Management Bureau listed 11 riversthat are considered “biologically dead.” Waterpollution is mainly caused by domestic wastes, whichaccount for 52 percent of the pollution load.Industry accounts for 48 percent.“There is more bad news. Water levels in thecountry’s major sources have been dropping at therate of 50 percent over the past 20 years. Excessivepumping of groundwater has caused waterdepletion and consequent decline in water levels.
Inless than 20 years, water levels in wells have droppedfrom an average of 20 meters below land surfaceto more than 120 meters in some areas, particularlyin the industrialized areas of Paranaque and Taguig,both in Metro Manila…”
by Ruth Meinzen-Dick andPaul P. Appasamy
is a Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. She has conducted extensive research on a wide range of issues related to water management, property rights, collective action, and gender analysis,especially in South Asia and Southern Africa.
Paul P. Appasamy
is Director, Madras School of Economics,Chennai, India. He has spent the last three decades studying and working in the areas of water resources and urban development.
While human populations 100 years ago wereprimarily rural and agriculturally-based, humans are rapidly
Shanda Leather is the former deputy director of the Environmental Change and Security Project.