Sunday, June 08, 2014

Endless cycle

This is my column today, June 8, 2014.

In the last few days the weather bureau has been telling people in Metro Manila to prepare for the onslaught of rains.  We are told that the rainy season is supposed to officially begin anytime this week, or this weekend, or next week; I’m not really sure when anymore and I’m not sure our weather men know either.  I suspect that it’s not just because the ranks of meteorologists in the agency have been reportedly decimated by piracy courtesy of other countries who have offered decent wages and benefits; weather patterns are probably harder to track and predict today.  
In response to the clamor of many Filipinos who couldn’t stand another day of sweltering heat, our weathermen have been making all kinds of predictions about how thunderstorms and rains would be descending upon Metro Manila, but except for that freak downpour in some areas in Quezon City the other week, the rains have not materialized yet.
I can’t blame people for being impatient.  I’ve personally been looking forward to some respite from the very long and hot summer of 2014.  I am told that it’s been raining almost every day in some isolated parts of the country; but Mother Nature has seemingly decided to make people in Metro Manila and Luzon suffer from the heat just a little longer.
But then again, we do know that it’s just a matter of time before people the monsoon rains descend upon us.  In a few more weeks, people would start complaining about another kind of problem—massive flooding, monstrous traffic caused by heavy downpours, kids getting drenched to the bone because local officials and school administrators failed to suspend classes early, etc. 
We live in a country where conditions swing from one extreme to another and global warming has made things worse.  We just suffered what seemed like the hottest summer ever and I dread the thought of what the upcoming rainy season will be like - hopefully, not many Ondoy-like downpours this year.
Soon there will be water everywhere and the fears that we had just a few months ago as we watched the water levels at our dams dipped below critical levels would seem unfounded.
The truth is that the impending water crisis is real.  Just because most of the country get flooded at certain times of the year does not mean we can forget about water conservation. 
Water is not an inexhaustible resource.  Our water beds are drying up and there are many places in this country where wells dry up as soon as summer starts. 
Many countries have started to build water reservoirs under their highways and major structures such as gymnasiums.  They’ve also started to put in place serious water conservation and recycling efforts.  These are countries that are managing for the long-term; they are fully aware that decades from now, water would be an expensive commodity and would be a major burden to their economies. In countries like Singapore, for instance, they have water purifying and recycling systems.
Of course we’re not there yet.  Mother Nature has spoiled us with bountiful resources, including water, and most of us think that these resources will always be there.  Many among us waste a lot of water.  For instance, most people turn on the tap and let water flow continuously while brushing their teeth.  One of our neighbors use a hose and a sprinkler to water their plants including those in their second floor windows and veranda– it always looks like there was a major downpour in the neighborhood after they have watered their plants. In many towns and barrios, they have artesian wells where water flows endlessly 24/7 even when there are no users; a variation of this is the so-called “flowing systems” where communities install 40-feet pipes into the ground and allow water to burst from the pipe 24/7. This has replaced pneumatic pumps that required physical energy to draw water from the ground.
It’s difficult to teach people water conservation when they are surrounded by water.  This is an effort that requires strategic thinking and a systemic approach. Unfortunately, strategic thinking is not one of the strong suits of our leaders.
This means the cycle will continue.  In a few weeks or days, we will suffer from the destructive effects of a seeming oversupply of water.  And then after a  few months, we will be worrying about where to get our water supply.

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