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Sewerage system for Philippine capital delayed by 20 years

Mexicans biggest users of bottled water
Mexico City (UPI) Sep 24, 2010 - More bottled water is consumed per capita in Mexico than anywhere in the world, a U.S. consulting group says, highlighting the lack of access to safe tap water. The Beverage Marketing Corp. says annual per person consumption of bottled water in Mexico is 61.8 gallons, compared to 30 gallons in the United States, Inter Press Service reports. Although municipal water utilities in Mexico insist the tap water they provide is safe, widespread mistrust of its quality has fuelled the growing consumption of bottled water, the consulting group said.

Nathalie Seguin of the Freshwater Action Network of Mexico said "there are also doubts about the quality of bottled water." "Besides, the production is unsustainable, with transnational corporations selling the water, which they obtain and package at low cost, at much higher prices," she told IPS. A U.N. agency, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, says while areas in northern Mexico along the U.S. border had high levels of access to safe water, some parts of central and southern Mexico had very poor access. Mexico's National Water Commission says 9.7 percent of the Mexican population lacks access to piped water and 13.6 percent to sanitation. In July, the U.N. General Assembly declared safe drinking water and sanitation are human rights essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights.
by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Sept 24, 2010
Completion of a planned sewerage system for the Philippine capital, which has one of the world's most polluted waterways, is set to be delayed by over 20 years, the environment ministry said Friday.

Two private companies had been contracted to build sewerage and treatment plants for the 11-million-strong Metro Manila area, but a planned completion date of 2009 was set to be delayed until about 2031, said Jonas Leones, assistant director of the Environmental Management Bureau.

Only a small part of the city's waste water is treated, while most of the rest runs into the Pasig River, described in a 2006 United Nations Development Programme report as one of the world's most polluted waterways.

"The Pasig river is the septic tank of Metro Manila," Environment Secretary Ramon Paje admitted before a Senate hearing earlier this week, according to Leones.

The government wants to fine the two water concessionaires -- Manila Water and Maynilad -- more than 100 million pesos (2.2 million dollars) for their failure to complete the project on time but the issue has gone to court, Leones said.

Domestic waste accounts for some 70 percent of the pollution in the 25-kilometre (16-mile) river.

The government is trying several measures to clean up the Pasig but much of the problem is attributed to millions of squatters living in slums on its banks, said an aide to Paje, Anna Liza Te.

"This is an urban poor problem. It needs long term solutions like relocation," she said. The World Bank estimates that up to half of Manila residents live in slums.

earlier related report
Tunnel under San Francisco Bay begun
San Francisco (UPI) Sep 24, 2010 - A project to create a 5-mile-long tunnel under San Francisco Bay to carry billions of gallons of water to Bay Area communities has begun, officials said.

When the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's $4.6 billion project to overhaul the area's water system is completed in 2015, the Bay Division Pipeline 5 will replace two decaying pipelines that now traverse the bay on wooden trestles, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

"These pipelines are old, and they leak," commission general manager Ed Harrington said. "The question is, do we really want to depend on them in a major earthquake? We really count on this system working, even if others fail."

The current water network serves 2.5 million customers in San Francisco, the East Bay and the Peninsula. A failure at the trans-bay pipeline during an earthquake could cut off water to businesses, homes and public service agencies for weeks or even months, officials warn.

"This infrastructure was built in the 1920s and 1930s -- it wasn't meant to last this long," Bob Mues, tunnel project construction manager, said.

"This is state of the art," he said of the new project.

The underground pipeline won't cross any major fault lines, but will lie between the San Andreas and Hayward faults.

Because earthquakes cause more shaking at ground level than below it, experts say the pipeline's location is considered more secure.

earlier related report
Groundwater depletion rate said doubled
Washington (UPI) Sep 23, 2010 - The rate at which humans are drawing from vast underground stores of groundwater on which billions rely has doubled in recent decades, a Dutch researcher says.

Findings published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters say water is rapidly being pulled from fast-shrinking subterranean reservoirs essential to daily life and agriculture in many regions.

So much water is being drawn from below ground that its evaporation and eventual precipitation accounts for about 25 percent of the annual sea level rise across the planet, the researchers said.

Global groundwater depletion threatens potential disaster for an increasingly globalized agricultural system, Marc Bierkens of Utrecht University in Utrecht, the Netherlands, said.

"If you let the population grow by extending the irrigated areas using groundwater that is not being recharged, then you will run into a wall at a certain point in time, and you will have hunger and social unrest to go with it," Bierkens says. "That is something that you can see coming for miles."

The researchers say the rate at which global groundwater stocks are shrinking has more than doubled between 1960 and 2000, increasing the amount lost from 30 cubic miles to 68 cubic miles per year.

Because the total amount of the world's groundwater is unknown it's hard to estimate how fast the global supply would vanish at this rate, but if water was drained as rapidly from the Great Lakes they would go bone-dry in around 80 years, scientists say.

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