I met an interesting fellow over lunch today. After talking a bit about politics, he put forth an idea to help banish the specter of drought in the country by building multiple desalinization plants in the country. With 7,107 individual islands surrounded by a limitless supply of water, I'm surprised no one kicked around the idea publicly sooner.

The use of desalination plants to create water isn't new. In fact, quite a number of countries have been using them for decades, with Israel being one of the more high profile ones to adopt the technology for its growing population. Having been utilized for decades in so many countries has contributed to the maturity of the technology.

I must admit, after hearing the words "desalinization plant," I felt like kicking myself because the solution to farm droughts and city-wide water rationing was staring at us in the face.

What makes the idea workable is the fact that there is so much water around us in the form of seawater.

I understand that the current situation today is that Metro Manila is heavily dependent on the Angat Dam, sourcing as much as 98 percent of its water requirements. With majority of the piping and pumping stations connected to it, a dip in the water level has led to serious water rationing actions in the past. Some instances have been so bad rationing has meant dry taps for extended periods of time.

In the case of farmlands, they are basically at the mercy of Mother Nature's. The problem is that man-made pollution has begun altering worldwide climate, making the rains irregular or weaker than normal in the Philippines. No thanks to the El Niño, the country has been losing millions due to droughts over the years.


Decentralization and Desalinization

Building multiple desalinization plants around the metropolis may offer a better solution than a centralized water system. First of all, using the sea means never running out of raw materials. On the contrary, rising sea levels means that there is even more water available for plants to tap in to. Secondly, the redundancy of having several plants means that water will continue to flow even when one is off line due to maintenance or damage.

Farm lands can also benefit from building localized desalinization plants. Compared to current designs, pipes supplying water to far-flung areas won't need to be as long because the water production area will be closer to the water consumption area.

And while this would be more cost efficient for the smaller Philippine islands, bigger land masses, like Luzon and Mindanao, still stand to benefit with proper planning.

Funding and Government

The even better news is, according to the person I spoke to, that funding can be provided by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, or the Japanese Government.

In the case of the power needed to run the pumps, he points to the county's success at implementing renewable energy projects. Things like solar panels or windmills can be tapped to make the plants self-sufficient.

Without the need to string out long power cables, the national government will be able to reallocate resources to other areas. And in a worst-case scenario, a power plant tripping or going off line for maintenance will have no effect on a desalinization plant's ability to operate around the clock.

Being quite passionate about this, I understand that the person I spoke to has gotten in touch with some members of the central government and a few captains of industry. Most of those he spoke with appear to have received his ideas in a positive light. However, translating this into action has yet to take place.

My little contribution to our conversation was to suggest that he go directly to the Governors and Mayors of the provinces and towns because they may be in a better position to implement his suggestions. Apart from the potential of lessening red tape, their constituents stand to benefit directly when desalinization plants come online. It is basically a win-win situation that covers everything from moral to economic to political issues.

Final Thoughts

Building multiple desalinization plants is worth serious consideration. It is a simple idea, using a mature solution, and may be implemented through readily-available funding. Given the benefits, all that is needed is to get stakeholders to put things into motion for the entire country to benefit.

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