Technical Assistance in Water Systems Sorsogon (1)

UN-HABITAT, through Knowledge Manager Cris Rollo and Water Engineer Jun de la Madrid of the Island Garden City of Samal Water District in his capacity a UN-HABITAT consultant, conducted a technical visit to Barangay Old Bato, Sorsogon City on May 17, 2010 to respond to concerns on the water system installed in the barangay under the Joint UN-HABITAT-IPADE Joint Programme on Water and Sanitation in Bicol and Caraga. This programme is funded by the Spanish government through the AECID.

The technical visit aimed to:

  1. Provide technical advice and assistance on options to improve water physical and chemical (PhyChem) quality of Coastal Core-IPADE-UNH water system in Sorsogon City;
  2. Provide technical assistance and support in understanding and establishing a system of water quality assurance and regular testing;
  3. Provide technical advice and assistance on the secure design for the water tank structure after site investigation results and consultation with Sorsogon City building officials;
  4. Provide technical advice and assistance on the establishment of the water management system including water fees for sustainability.

The morning was spent in the on-site inspection of the water system and in situ discussions with the concerned city officials from City Engineering Office (CEO: Engineers Roel Domer and Danny Diaz), City Health Office (CHO: Reynaldo Taladtad), Sorsogon City Water District (SCWD: Marlon Galias), the barangay and BAWASA officials and members as well as Coastal core and the contracted engineer. Noemi Singzon, Coastal Core Project Development Officer, explained the background and context of the project. She highlighted the following information:

  1. Barangay Old Bato was chosen as the project site because it ranked 2ndamong the city barangays in the number of cases of dengue and water-borne diseases.
  2. The original design of the water tank was square for which the structure was built. But upon advice of UN-HABITAT, the tank was changed to circular ferrocement tank which is lighter and more resilient to strong winds.
  3. The site was selected because it was a barangay property.

Powerhouse containing the pump, electric switches and biosand filters.

The technical discussions among the engineers and water experts focused on:

  1. The technical soundness of the water tank structure;
  2. Water quantity; and
  3. Water quality, specifically the physical, chemical and bacteriological quality of the water from the deep well source.

On the water tank structure:

  • The as-built design and specifications have been compiled and submitted to the CEO for review and comments. However, since the city engineers are present and could already clarify questions with the engineer contractor, the city engineers proceeded to clarify issues with the contractor.
  • The safety factor is at 40% for dead load and 10% for live load (with water content).
  • There was substantial discussion on the slenderness factor for the 4 columns supporting the water tank. The absence of a horizontal beam to strengthen the columns were noted by the residents and deemed unsafe. The contractor explained its strength considering its compression and tensile factor.
  • In order to allay the fears of the residents, the city engineers suggested that the columns be reinforced either by reinforcing up to 1/3 of the base or by enveloping the columns with a walled structure that could be used as the powerhouse where the equipment can be installed and the collection function can be performed.

Water tank. Note the absence of horizontal beams.

On water quantity:

  • The system has a discharge capacity of 1 liter per second (lps) or more than 20 cubic meters per month. This is sufficient to serve the needs of the households in the sitio.
  • SCWD plans for a monthly consumption of 19 cubic meters/household.

On the physical and chemical quality of the water:

  • The residents complained about the brownish-reddish color of the water during initial outage from the tap. The same color was observed when the remaining water in the tank was drained during the inspection.
  • It was noted that this water turbidity, due to high iron and manganese content, was really a characteristic of the water in the area. The same color could be could be observed in the stones dug from the drilling and around the area.
  • A log of the drilling done was submitted by the contractor and synthesized by Maila of Coastal Core. It showed the geologic property of the site. It showed that the drilling has reached hard rock and may not proceed further than the existing depth. On the issue of whether a deeper drill will clearer water, it was pointed out by the engineers and water district that further drilling will not produce clearer water but will only risk saltwater intrusion of the groundwater because of the proximity of the site to the coast which is less than 500 meters.
  • Two biosand filters were installed in the site for use by the households. The biosand filter could produce potable water that is clear and safe for drinking. However, the residents did not use the biosand because of its very slow drip rate and users have to go to the pumping station to get filtered water.
  • To remove unwanted colored residues from the water supply, flushing is recommended at various levels:
  1. At the water source, water should be flushed on the first seconds upon pumping until the water color becomes clear. Once clear, the water can be pumped up to the water tank.
  2. On a daily basis, the residual water should be flushed out before the new water is pumped into the tank.
  3. On a monthly basis, there should be flushing of the distribution pipes.
  4. Households can also flush the initial water discharge first, if not clear, before use.
  • SCWD offered to help Coastal Core in the PhyChem test. Samples will be submitted to the Metro Naga Water District for testing together with that from SCWD. A P1,000 fee will be charged for the test. The test will determine the presence of minerals and other chemicals in the water and this will compared against the acceptable national standards.
  • Engineer de la Madrid took a water sample and undertook a quick hardness test. The result showed that the water turned blue after 24 drops of the chemical solution meaning that the water is hard or contains many physical and chemical substances.

Engineer Jun de la Madrid conducting hardness test on water sample.

On the bacteriological quality of the water:

  • The water district officer suggested the use of chlorination to ensure that the water is safe for drinking. He suggested drip-type chlorination at the source and not at the water tank as is presently set up. The change would disinfect the source as well. This should be done daily using a solution of 1 liter water: 1 tablespoon granular chlorine.
  • The water tank should be disinfected regularly (monthly) using a higher concentration of 1 liter:3 tablespoon chlorine.
  • Engineer de la Madrid took a water sample and undertook a quick PHC (primary health care) test. The result will be known after 24 hours. If the water remains clear, there is no or negligible bacteria in the water. If the water turns dark, the water is contaminated. The darker the water, the worse the contamination.
  • Coastal Core will advocate with CHO to have Brgy. Old Bato included in its regular bacteriological testing (monthly) and PhyChem testing (every 6 months).
Technical Assistance in Water Systems Sorsogon (5)

Marlon Galias of the SCWD discussing chlorination procedures.

A meeting with the stakeholders and community was conducted in the afternoon. Twenty three (23) participants attended from the CEO, CHO, SCWD, barangay, BAWASA, Coastal Core, IPADE and UN-HABITAT. Blue of CC facilitated the community consultation.

In addition to the points discussed above which were also raised in the meeting, the following were discussed:

  1. Current water consumption of household cost approximately P25/day. P10 is the cost of a container of drinking water sourced from Sugod or Gatbo. The P15 is for the transportation expense.
  2. CEO Engineer Roel Domer assured the residents that the water tank structure is safe based on the submitted plans and design specifications. Other suggestions have also been considered to further strengthen the structure. As discussed, the possibility of constructing a wall envelope reinforcement at the base of the columns will be considered. Blue of CC informed the body that they will look at other sources of funds for the reinforcement of the structure.
  3. On whether the well can be deepened, Marlon of SCWD explained that the national standard is at 32 feet. He does not recommend further deepening the drill because there is danger of saltwater intrusion.
  4. On the dark color of the water, the community was informed of the various steps to be taken which should result in improved water clarity:
    1. Filtration
    2. Flushing (discussed above)
    3. Household option to use biosand filter. There are 4 units existing in the community. This can produce 260 per day. However, patience is needed to collect the water because of its slow drip.
  5. Target turnover of the system when there is already at least 50% household coverage or around 35 households.
  6. If the water quality is assured, many would want to be connected. However, there might be a problem in the initial payment for the water meter at P600-P700 per meter. The initial household investment would be P1,200 (meter and faucet). CC promised to look into possible support to address this. An option would be to use the Revolving Fund for short-term loans for the installment payment of the facility.
  7. SCWD committed support for the capacity development of the water system management team. Marlon can be invited in his personal capacity to conduct workshops for the group on various topics including technical consultations and workshops.
Technical Assistance in Water Systems Sorsogon (6)

Community consultation with barangay official, BAWASA members, technical experts and partners.

After the community consultation, a meeting with CC, contractor, IPADE and UN-HABITAT was conducted to plan the next steps for the project. Among the agreements reached are the following:

  1. For the structural soundness of the water tank, official comment from the CEO will be followed up by CC.
  2. CC will apply for the building permit because the BAWASA is not yet a legal entity. As a requisite for the application, the formal consent of the city and the barangay for the use of the land for the pumping station will be procured. The application will be for the new reinforced structure already.
  3. The contractor committed to come up with a feasibility study on the reinforcement of the water tank structure considering the 2 options: reinforced base or a wrap around wall for multi-use as a powerhouse and collecting office.
  4. The building permit is important because currently the water system is paying 30% surcharge for electric power as it is currently using a temporary electrical connection only.
  5. Once BAWASA becomes a legal entity, it can claim subsidy from the city government (formerly from SORECO) equivalent to P50 per month per connected household. BAWASA simply submits list of connected households to the barangay. This will be facilitated by CC.
  6. The flushing procedures as discussed will be observed. Engineer Carascal and CC to ensure that this is implemented. For the monthly flushing of distribution lines, a blow-off valve/point (with padlock) will be installed.
  7. While the issue of drilling deeper has been resolved in the meeting, there is a need to illustrate the explanation visually for better comprehension by residents. CC will prepare this visual illustration.
  8. The PhyChem and bacteriological testing will be done as discussed earlier. Test results will be presented to the community.
  9. Manual drip type chlorination will be done regularly. The chlorinator presently used for the tank will be transferred to the water source and will be fully implemented by next week.
  10. Target household coverage is 50% by June 2010. This means that water quality should have improved and financing options for initial level 3 installation costs should have been made available to the households.
  11. Strengthen coordination with SCWD for the capacity development of the BAWASA. SCWD personnel has committed to support the water system project by conducting lectures/workshops for the community. Cris Rollo of UN-HABITAT has also furnished CC as set of workshop materials and powerpoint presentations, from the DILG PMO on watsan, for these capacity development sessions. CC will tap resource persons for specific topics.