The city’s publicly-owned water utility needs to overhaul its system to effectively serve the consumers, Mayor Oscar Moreno.

The Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) has been flooded with criticisms from its thousands of concessionaires, especially on the western part of the city, due to water shortage since Sept. 26 following two major earthquakes, which its bulk water provider said had affected its pipelines and that repairs had to be done.

COWD is the first water district in the country established in 1973, becoming a government-owned and controlled corporation in March 1992. It now has around 93,000 concessionaires, and about half of which are affected by the water problem.

Joffrey Hapitan, vice president of the Rio Verde Water Consortium Inc. (RVWCI), COWD’s contracted bulk provider, has attributed the shortage to the Aug. 5 and Sept. 24 earthquakes, which he said damaged water pipes in the city’s river—the main source of water for the city’s western area.

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In the COWD website, however, the utility said the damage was due to the bad weather.

“[RVWCI], the bulk supplier of COWD, experienced a major damage in their system. A part of their pipeline that crosses the Cagayan de Oro River has been damaged apparently by the debris propelled by strong river currents brought by heavy rains last weekend,” a service interruption update on the COWD website said.

Moreno told the COWD management to “shape up” amid the torrent of complaints arising from the lingering water shortage in the city’s first district.

“We need to level up especially that Cagayan de Oro is a growing city. You can’t support the growth of the city with an anemic water district,” he said.

Moreno said the COWD must undergo massive rehabilitation, reorganization and management revamp.

“It (COWD) had been insensitive. It has not fulfilled its obligation, and its continuing default has led to all of this (water crisis),” he said.

From a company that was once admired, Moreno said, the COWD has turned into a laughingstock and a liability.

The mayor has blamed the bulk water supply deal COWD has signed with RVWCI as the main reason behind the water shortage, saying the company has failed to ensure sufficient supply of water for the city’s consumers.

He also slammed the RVWCI’s reason for the water shortage, calling it a “lame excuse.”

“This is not a blame game. All I want to do is for the people to realize where did we commit mistakes so that the [COWD] will never commit those mistakes again,” the mayor said.

For the city to elevate its competitiveness and to make it attractive to investors, Moreno said Cagayan de Oro needs a stable, reliable water supply.

“You can never dream of becoming a competitive city if your water supply is inadequate and poor, and worst, inefficient,” he added. (PNA/JJJ)

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