Editorial | Access to potable water

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the measure of development on the quality of life worldwide, has 17 goals. On the 6th priority is Clean Water and Sanitation which means ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Being an archipelago, the Philippines has a very long coastline and rich in inland bodies of water that can nourish farms and provide potable water to communities. But is access to water available to all or sustainable, for that matter?

In the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey of Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), three regions in Mindanao lack access to sources of potable water. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) had the least improved water sources among the country’s 17 regions at 70.9% while Zamboanga Peninsula (90.8%) and Davao Region (91.8%) ranked 15th and 13th, respectively.

As for sanitation, the ARMM was also the least improved at 35.4% in terms of toilet facilities nationwide, followed by Davao Region (67.8%) and Region 12 (68.6%) while the most improved was Central Luzon at 87%.

Access to potable water continues to be a challenge to some communities in the highlands. Gender comes into the picture as those who fetch water for drinking and for household purposes are usually women and children. The survey showed that “16% of households traveled less than 30 minutes or longer to fetch water, and 3% percent traveled 30 minutes or longer.” Those who fetch water walk through perilous terrain in whatever weather conditions to bring water home. This takes a toll on the health and education of young children and women who bear the burden of fetching water for the home.

Water is a basic need for human beings to survive. Despite the fact that we are literally sitting on a watershed, access to drinking water remains a challenge for those in the rural areas. In urban areas, drinking water comes from a refilling station (44 percent), followed by water piped into the dwelling, yard or plot (24%), and water from a tubewell or borehole (12%). Why do we buy bottled water and not drink from the tap? This is because 79% of the households do not treat their water prior to drinking.

Like the energy sector, there is a need for government agencies concerned to ensure supply and distribution of water, potable or for household use, to each household. This will certainly make a difference in the lives of women and children and enable them to have more productive lives rather than walking 30 minutes or more just to fetch water.

Posted in Opinion