Our earlier study (Palanca-Tan and Bautista 2003) looked into groundwater depletion in Cagayan de Oro City (CDO) and the viability of collecting a raw groundwater fee to control the excessive abstraction of groundwater and to generate revenues to finance watershed preservation activities. This current study is an action research project that endeavored to push the CDO government to legislate and implement a raw groundwater pricing scheme as a resource management tool.
The project included a hydrological study that was done to estimate the safe yield of the CDO aquifer. The hydrological study also aimed to equip our research team with a better understanding and appreciation of the underlying procedures and data in the safe yield estimates and hence enable us to provide a clearer picture of the extent of the problem to local government officials, groundwater users, and the general public. Using the gradient method, we estimated the safe yield for the CDO aquifer to be in the range of 2.4-9.5 million m3 per month.
The project required updating the earlier’s study’s list of groundwater extractors and the rate of groundwater extraction. We identified almost 40 new deep well systems constructed for subdivisions, hotels and malls that have mushroomed since 2000. These, together with the increased rate of withdrawal of the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD), have raised groundwater extraction to 4.67 million m3 per month, 39% more than the 2000 estimate. Comparing this with the estimated safe yield of 2.4-9.5 million m3 per month, it appears that a large portion of the natural discharge, and possibly even more, is used for water production in the city. This may be causing drawdown below sea level and local salt water intrussion that may explain the low groundwater levels registered in the Macasandig well field.
The policy advocacy component of the project entailed a series of multilevel consultations with different groups of stakeholders, namely: National Water Resources Board (NWRB), City Local Government units – both executive and legislative branches, Water District and private deep-well owners and operators, and the general public. As NWRB is the primary national government agency mandated for raw water pricing, its collaboration was sought right from the project conception stage. The project team with the participation of NWRB endeavored to push the CDO government to legislate and implement a raw groundwater pricing scheme as a resource management tool. To promote the acceptability of the proposed groundwater conservation strategy, a public information campaign was conducted from project conception, which included symposia and print media and video presentations. The enthusiastic support and cooperation of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro greatly greatly helped the reserach team in reaching the different interest groups in the city.
Consultation meetings were undertaken involving NWRB, other national government agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), CDO local government units, groundwater extractors, and the CDO River Basin Management Council to come up with a workable design and implementation plan for the raw groundwater pricing policy. We recommend that NWRB, which has the legal mandate to impose raw water fee sby virtue of PD 424 and 1067, delegate this function to the CDO city government, which in turn may deputize the CDO River Basin Management Council, a multi-sectoral entity co-chaired by the DENR Region X Director and the Archbishop of CDO. We had gone as far as bringing the City Council to draft an Ordinance for the Raw Groundwater Pricing Scheme. As of this writing, the first Public Hearing on the draft Ordinance had been held.