AROUND 488 million cubic meters of water a year is lost to waste, mainly in water districts outside Metro Manila, the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) said.

“We are averaging about 488 million (cubic meters of water) that we throw away yearly — that’s half of Angat Dam,” LWUA Chairman Ronnie L. Ong said in a televised interview on Tuesday.

The LWUA oversees 532 water districts, of which 244 have significant levels of non-revenue water (NRW). NRW includes water that is not billed or lost through leaks or illegal connections.

“The worldwide NRW average is 20% but we are averaging around 30% nationwide,” Mr. Ong said. Some water districts have NRW levels as high as 75%, he said.

The LWUA is a government-owned and -controlled corporation that manages the development of water systems outside of Metro Manila.

Mr. Ong estimated that around 50%-70% of the water districts under LWUA are government-owned, while some are joint ventures with the private sector.

“Let’s concentrate on the government-owned (districts) first (in fixing) what needs to be fixed… I think the fund will be there. It is not that big, but we still have to fix it,” he said.

The LWUA has an allocated budget of less than P2 billion a year, he said.

Mr. Ong said fixing water leakage is a priority with the onset of El Niño.

The government weather service, known as PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) announced in July the onset of El Niño. It estimates a more than 56% probability of a moderate to strong El Niño during the fourth quarter.

“We have some water districts that have pipes that were installed during the Japanese occupation, made of asbestos,” he added. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera