THIS week – chronologically, there is a bit of a window, as the news broke but hit the media space at different times – we found out that the Baguio Water District (BWD), the good science folks running the math have declared that at least for this year, they will be drilling 10 (plus-minus as needed) new wells into the Baguio aquifer.
The mathematics have decreed that yes, we can support a bunch more wells because there are at least half a thousand illegal deep wells, so logically, with that non-zero one-sided limit of wells operating, ten more surely won’t hurt, will they? Mathematically, it all checks out. (Granted, part of my education in journalism was to ensure I wouldn’t need mathematics knowledge.)
The underlying logic is that A – we do need more water, the increasing population isn’t due to manifesting tulpas capable of living off of ambient moisture and humidity, B – we already have at least 600 wells somewhere in the city producing a non-zero amount of water, and C – if there is already that many wells, another handful should be negligible in additional load.
There is some truth to this, but the least astute among my handful of readers have probably already noticed that the math adds up but also really doesn’t, given this smattering of basic, surface-level knowledge.
That is – water isn’t infinite, as we all know, and while a portion of it will be refilled inevitably during the underwater season when the mountainside somehow starts flooding from non-stop torrential rain that, well (heh), rains like a torrent and collapses portions of Kennon Road yet again.
Just because there are already others doing it (96 percent without permits by the way) does not mean that also doing it won’t hurt. This is the time-tested parenting adage of kapag tumalon sa bangin yung barkada mo, tatalon ka rin ba? that I believe a non-zero amount of us have heard in our childhoods, often to discourage a reckless course of peer-pressured action.
Our fear here is that while this may solve water woes in the interim with the promises of nearly 8,000 cubic meters of additional water every day, water will remain finite, and within a decade or two, this [liquid] is going to be more precious than oil.
Additional wells will, well, speed up that tipping point. Aquifers are, by nature, renewable – when the rains bless us from down in Africa or something, the excess, uncaptured water that doesn’t dehydrate by virtue of evaporation goes down into the ground, and a portion of it recharges the aquifer.
You may have noticed that there are multiple steps to the recharge of a water table. Not all of the precipitation makes it back into the system, which means that with every step in the process, there is a net loss of water. This is similar to how every system always has entropy; therefore, among other things, rendering perpetual motion impossible. Not quite far from what happens in this process – we can maximize efficiency of water recharge using advanced rainwater collection and rainflow mechanisms, but just as there is always loss in life, love, energy transfer, and Internet memes, there will always be a point where the load we take is bigger than the load given back.
Naturally, I trust that the scientifically-inclined math and science experts of the BWD know this. Perhaps the internal figures show that this doesn’t quite tip the scales enough, but a worry is that this is being thrown into the loop as part of a feverish short-term water fever without appropriate measures being taken to ensure that the long-term stability of a water supply is secured.
And all this – all of this consumption, only takes into account this phenomenon happening in isolation and on paper. Who knows what other pressures are pushing the decision one way or the other? Who’s to say that this isn’t a precedent that opens the floodgates to more and more drilling?
What if the mindset changes from “I’ve just dug 10 holes” to “I just need 5 more” and the goalposts keep changing?
Baguio’s natural resources are ripe for the milking, but how much milking does livestock take before it perishes?