Half of Metro Manila Could Soon Be Drinking Treated and Purified Used Water

Here’s an answer to the constant threat of water shortages.

Many of us still remember the water crisis that hit large swaths of Metro Manila in 2019. Faucets ran dry and long lines from thirsty consumers waiting for tankers were a common sight as a severe water supply shortage suddenly seemed to hit the capital. 

The crisis was eventually resolved about two weeks later, but not before former President Rodrigo Duterte blew his top and canceled the contract extensions of the private water concessionaires handling the water distribution of Metro Manila—Manila Water Company Inc. for the East Zone, then controlled by the Ayala conglomerate, and Maynilad Water Services Inc., which is run by a consortium of Manny Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific Investments Corp and the Consunjis’ DMCI, for the West Zone.


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Since then, actual ownership changes have occurred, particularly involving the East Zone concessionaire. The Ayalas eventually surrendered control of Manila Water to tycoon Enrique Razon Jr.

As for Maynilad, it eventually signed a new concession agreement with the regulatory body Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in May 2021. The company also stepped up efforts to ensure adequate water supply for its customers.

Part of it is its New Water campaign.

Officials of Maynilad demonstrate the safety and cleanliness of New Water

Photo by Maynilad.

What is New Water

New water is essentially used water treated to become safe for drinking. It’s the water supply produced after used water from households passes through a rigorous set of treatment processes to become potable. 

According to Maynilad, it has been looking into potable water reuse since the water crisis of 2019, which it says reinforced the fact that consumers cannot rely solely on Angat Dam, the primary water source for over 90 percent of households of Metro Manila. Besides tapping alternative sources, such as Laguna Lake, Maynilad says used water will also help expand the company’s—and consumers’—options when regular supply is affected by things like droughts or other natural calamities.

But the number one concern of consumers is whether New Water is actually safe to drink. According to the water concessionaire, yes. Maynilad says it will apply stringent standards and processes to treat used water and eventually turn it into “treated used water. This includes things like screening, aeration, biological nutrient removal, sedimentation, and ultraviolet disinfection, all of which meets the ambient water and general effluent standards of 2021 set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Maynilad says it also plans to use its new Modular Treatment Plants (ModTP), which is equipped with Israeli technology, to convert the treated used water into the potable supply called New Water. In this part of the process, the water will undergo pressurized media filtration, ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis, and chlorine disinfection before it can finally be called New Water, which is safe for drinking. 

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There is actually precedent for used water being treated and purified and turned into safe drinking water in other parts of the world. In Singapore, for instance, NeWater is the brand name of highly treated reclaimed wastewater purified and made safe to drink. Although tests show that NeWater is actually much cleaner than Singapore’s other water sources, according to the Singapore Public Utilities Board, which produces NeWater, much of it is currently used for non-drinking purposes, mostly in industries that require high volume purified water in its production processes. About 40 percent of the island-state’s drinkable and non-drinkable water is actually NeWater. 

Maynilad says it specifically looked to Singapore as well as the country of Namibia in the African continent, for its move to go into New Water.

“Namibia is the pioneer in developing potable supply from reused water, having done this initiative since 1968,” the Maynilad release says. “Its Windhoek City is currently getting 24 percent of its drinking water from this source.”

Maynilad's water treatment facility

Photo by Maynilad.

New Water mixed with standard treated water

According to Maynilad, New Water will eventually be mixed with the standard drinking water produced by its La Mesa Treatment Plants. An initial 10 million liters per day of New Water will be produced in the second half of the year. The first households that will receive this new blended water supply are the one in Barangay San Dionisio and San Isidro in Parañaque City, which the company says are the nearest to the ModTP locations. There are about 38,700 customers in these barangays, which Maynilad says will benefit from the additional water supply.

“Water is a scarce resource, said Maynilad President and CEO Ramoncito Fernandez. “Given the growing population’s increasing demand for water plus the strain on existing sources due to climate change, we should consider using previously untapped sources—including used water—to augment supply. There are now reliable and effective treatment technologies that make it a viable option.”

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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