Philippine Environmental Solutions: Desalination Plant Very Much Needed

On its basic definition, a desalination plant turns sea salt water into fresh water. Now, you take a look at the 7,200 islands of the Philippines, and you will very easily realize that the Philippines is surrounded by sea water, flanked in all angles by the wonderful Pacific Ocean.

It is obvious that fresh water is scarce in many places in the Philippines. In Manila alone, many residents are relying on water delivery trucks to provide fresh water into water storage tanks for their homes. Even potable drinking water is relied on delivery from businesses that focus their attention to water filtration.

In other areas, the rivers have been very much polluted by garbage and industrial sewage, and it looks like that water pollution won’t let up on the Philippine shores, which boasts of a very diverse aquatic eco-system with its many beaches and reefs.

In some parts of the Philippines, water is such a sought-after commodity that tribal wars have escalated due to disputes over land boundaries and water sources.

Water is Life

Water is Life

The bottom line – the Philippines needs an abundant fresh water supply soon. Because as it stands, fresh water is becoming a hard commodity to come by, and the fresh water sources of our country are not enough to keep up with the day-to-day demands for fresh water among the country’s residents.

The solution – to invest on the construction of a desalination plant that can convert sea water to fresh water, and eventually channel that fresh water.

Of course, the capital cost for such an ambitious project is huge. Based on research of the Melbourne desalination plant being prepared in Australia, the estimated cost of the project is said to reach AUD$3.1 Billion. That’s roughly Php100 Billion! The annual operating costs, after factoring the possible profits, will reach a total annual cost of around AUD$600 million.

The Melbourne Desalination Plant is expected to provide 150 gigalitres of water each year using the reverse osmosis method of desalination. The Melbourne Desalination plant is expecting its construction to commence in mid-2009 and should be ready for operation by the year 2011. The amount of fresh water that the Melbourne Desalination Plant will be enough to supply 33% of Melbourne City’s annual water needs.

The Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Plant, which is expected to be up and running this 2008, cost around US$150 Million to build, and churns up 95,000 cubic meters of water per day, which can provide water to a population of approximately 2 million people on a daily basis. The Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Plant is actually six years behind its original schedule of opening which involved a lot of bankruptcy among the companies who were involved in the ownership and control over the construction and development. However, once up and running, the Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Plant looks to be the largest seawater desalination facility in the United States. And yet, it can accommodate at most a population of 2 million.

How big and how efficient will the desalination plant of the Philippines be remains a mystery. After all, plans and proposals have yet to be drawn up to look into the feasibility of constructing a desalination plant for the Philippines. The question remains though – are there plans being brought up to even consider the investing and construction of a desalination plant in the Philippines?

If there are no plans or proposals yet, then the Philippines better get their act together and come up with one soon. Fresh water sources in the Philippines are becoming depleted, and we cannot rest on our laurels and watch our fresh water eventually run out. The Philippines has to make an attempt at looking to the future, and should look into the option of converting all that salt water that surrounds our country and turning it into fresh water. Eventually, it will be our last resort for water when the fresh water in our 7,200 islands dry up.

Anyway, the National Water Resources Board of the Philippines is responsible for the management of the country’s water resource for present and future generations. As of now, they have their hands tied in trying to identify the many problems within the hundreds of water districts scattered all over the nation. The research alone is already a huge task to undertake, and certainly they might not be as well-funded or supported by the government, especially since it runs independent from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and from the government.

The work that the NWRB does is very, very urgent, and I am under the impression that maybe they are two steps behind in realizing their goals in order to improve the water situation in the Philippines. Well, at least, there’s an initiative on the part of the NWRB to make steps to manage the country’s water resources. At least.

In the meantime, the other citizens who don’t know any better continue to waste away our precious water resource with continuous wasting, polluting and disregard of its value.

While the entire world is looking for oil and going to war for fossil fuels, eventually the destruction of humanity and the beginning of super anarchy will be if we don’t have enough fresh water. We can adapt our lives if we run out of gas, and we’ll seek other alternative sources for energy, but if we run out of water, expect all hell to let loose.

Water is life. Save water! Save life!

12 Responses to “Philippine Environmental Solutions: Desalination Plant Very Much Needed”

  1. Hi

    Goodafternoon, I just want to know where are the places in Luzon, Visayas or around Mindanao who doesn’t have a good water or poor access of potable water,Might we can recommend ways that can solve bout this situation with the help of government. Let me know pls if ever you have information.

    e-mail me

    Thank You and God Bless

    • emmanuel abanes Says:

      I would like you to check Tanjay City, Negros Oriental we have the worse water supply in ther country. They are not concern to the people of the City as long as they have the profit. I think they should privatize the water district . The water is so dirty especially during the rainy season. I think they just get it direct from the river to the consumer. Please help us with this problem. Our local government officials are not so concern on this matter. Thanks

  2. JC F. ALEJANDRO Says:

    i want to correct you that the Philippines is not composed of 7,200 islands. to be exact, it has 7,107 islands and diminishing due to uprise of sea water. i am currently holding a study on desalination of sea water for human consumption in the Philippines,

  3. JC F. ALEJANDRO Says:

    there is no water scarcity in the Philippines. it is relative scarcity.

  4. supertyphoons provide lots of fresh water(wet months remember 1 week straight rain rain rain,phew), it’ll be a major option(desalination plant) when long drougths hits the country, underground wells can be an option too

  5. ken Villareal Says:

    I have notice that arguments is more of a solution in some pressing needs of the Philippines sometimes…like that of water. Shortage of fresh water in the Philippines is a reality but some would say, “realtive scarcity” as if the terminologies may cure the problem. Whatever it is, i knew a group deeply nterested of investing 3.5 billion US for a water teatment and fresh water facility for manila. Let us hope this would make a reality in the Philippines.

  6. It’s tiring to hear that the water level of this dam, or this dam, or this dam, is depleting. As if that’s the only water source that we have. Quite funny and ironic, that we have to resolve problem on water scarcity whereas we are very much surrounded by water.

    I was browsing the internet for desalination plants in the Philippines, but I was disappointed seeing only a few case studies without any plant built. I presume that the problem would be funding and we are again looking at foreign investors to support this project on BOT terms.

    I just want to express my opinion on how desalination and other technologies could possibly resolve the countries water scarcity. I would look on four (4) major factors to consider, before proceeding doing a project like this:

    (1) Water Source
    (2) Technology
    (3) Distribution System
    (4) Cost

    Water source
    We are very much surrounded by water, its a fact. Then, We should look for a specific place where construction and distribution would be convenient. Sea Water, Dirty River Water, or even Sewage Water can all be purified and treated to fit human consumption. It’s a matter of Technology and the raw water source. Ground water, river water or dam waters are not the only source we should depend on. It’s actually a major advantage for us compared to other countries which are far from bodies of water.

    Desalination is a treatment process of removing salt from salty water (e.g. Sea Water). It’s like filtration or desalters or demineralization. To do this process we have to choose which operation to use. That is where Reverse Osmosis (Membrane), Thermal Flash Evaporation or Distillation comes in the picture. In terms of energy consumption – RO would be the most appropriate method especially if solar powered RO are utilized. In terms of quality, construction and operation all are remarkable and we have a number of Filipinos who could operate, maintain and even design and engineer these type of technologies. So there’s a lot of people who could possibly help.

    Distribution System
    This would include the storage or reservoir to store the treated water and how the water shall be transported to serve its consumers. This should not be taken for granted, as the cost of this part of the project is closely the same with the cost of building the treatment plant. For areas with small scale water treatment plant, the water is pumped into elevated tanks and then distributed by gravity to its consumers. For long or large community distributions, high lift pumping station would be the better option if gravity flow would not be applicable. Another cost to consider here are the civil works, pipeline and its monitoring system.

    In case of successful project execution, the case of illegal tapping on networks should properly be regulated. This needs serious implementation of the law and investigation on existing taps.

    There are a lot more to discuss on this issue, and with a number of people who want to get involved, GRAFT would also be factor to look at.

    Just thinking a loud…

    Allan Demape, ChE

  7. I always spent my half an hour to read this webpage’s posts every day along with a mug of coffee.

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