Pacific Prospective features the research of graduate students.
By Brett Dimond – brett.dimond [at] gmail.com
A central principle for the good governance of common-pool resources is to match allocation and provision rules. In other words, those who appropriate a resource must do so in a way that is viewed by those involved as legitimate. In the Philippines, the Constitution declares water to be the property of the State–thus ensuring all Filipinos are entitled to the benefits derived from the resource. Metro Manila–a mega-city of 12 million inhabitants–receives almost 97 percent of its domestic water supply from the Angat Reservoir, located in the province of Bulacan, which borders Metro Manila to the north. Water rights there are primarily divided among three national government agencies: 1) the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), responsible for water supply and sewerage services within Metro Manila; 2) the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), which oversees water delivery to the AMRIS irrigation system in Bulacan; and 3) the National Power Corporation (NPC), responsible for hydropower generation. Bulacan itself has no rights to the water stored within the reservoir.
Water within a river basin is connected, however, and might be viewed as a medium that transports both natural and human-induced externalities. The complex interactions involving water within modern societies result in many second and third-order effects. Given the majority of its population and economic activity lie downstream of the reservoir, Bulacan’s position makes it uniquely susceptible to such effects, as when a decrease in streamflow (first-order effect) from the dam negatively impacts water quality (second-order effect) by concentrating pollutants. While instream flow needs for the Angat River do receive a percentage of water allocated from the dam–and thus might be said to mitigate potential negative externalities downstream–its proportion is so small (2 m3/s out of a total 60 m3/s) as to be of little practical value.
The ecological sustainability of the basin is vitally dependent on the social dynamics both within and outside it. As demand for this scarce resource increases, so too will the likelihood of conflict. This places a premium on ensuring those who appropriate water upstream fairly compensate those downstream for its negative effects. The institutional mechanisms available to achieve this are not lacking, and attention should be given to exploring these possibilities.
Brett Dimond is a graduate student at the School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP), UBC. He is a member of the SSHRC-funded research project Collaborative Governance of Urbanizing Watersheds: Integrated Research, Institution, and Capacity-building for Sustainability and Climate-risk Adaptation in the Angat River Basin, Philippines.
If you enjoyed this memo, subscribe to our e-newsletter for free and receive new memos 2x week via email.
- Urbanizing Watersheds: Collaborative Governance of the Angat River Basin in the Philippines. (Public website for SSHRC-funded research project Collaborative Governance of Urbanizing Watersheds)
- Guillermo Q. Tabios and Cristina C. David, “Competing Uses of Water: Cases of Angat Reservoir, Laguna Lake, and Groundwater Systems of Batangas City and Cebu City,” in Winning the Water War: Watersheds, Water Policies, and Water Institutions, 2004
- Neville, Kate J., “Adversaries versus Partners: Urban Water Supply in the Philippines,” Pacific Affairs 84(2) (2011): 245-65
- Karen Bakker, Privatizing Water: Governance Failure and the World’s Urban Water Crisis, 2010
- Francois Molle and Jeremy Berkoff, “Cities vs. agriculture: A review of intersectoral water re-allocation,” Natural Resources Forum 33 (2009): 6-18.