Sustainable solutions for water resources

Water resources are vital to human beings.

Without water, there is no life.

Last April I experienced a very tiresome activity and made me sick for sometime.

I thought what on earth is happening in this place.

I thought that it was just temporary because its summer time – in the Philippines the temperature is warm at this point in time. However, in June, it is expected that rainy season will come but the situation is getting worse.

water supply delivery
Photo: Lloyd Celeste

I kept on fetching water for 3 pesos per container. Thankfully a woman offered the same price which is not so far from my boarding house.

I realized that I was really called to do this job as a researcher and extentionist. I thought this could be a great opportunity to educate and teach the people about environmental conservation.

I know that this is a critical issue. An issue that is not just personal but somehow political. Many people would not believe this until they felt it.

Many people denies that we have insufficient water supply and we even experiencing this from time to time.

In this regard, I would like to address this article to all those deniers out there and hope to provide some mitigation mechanism in achieving .

This article is focused on the Watershed management for sustainable water service delivery. This is a sustainable solution to water resources.

The article is divided into the following parts.

  1. Relationship of Forest and Watershed in the delivery of sustainable water supply
  2. Why Watershed Management?
  3. Watershed Services
  4. Why invest in Watershed management?
  5. Benefits of Watershed Management
  6. Watershed Management Policy, Issues and Concerns
  7. Sustainable Solutions for water resources
  8. Conclusion

If you want to get a copy of this sustainable water supply in power point  presentation you can visit the link below.
[slideshare id=65339507&doc=watershedmanagementforsustainablewatersupply-160825015817]


Relationship of Forest and Watershed in the delivery of sustainable water supply

Based on the definition, “A watershed can be defined as a geographic area of land in which precipitation drains to a common point on a stream, river, pond, lake or other body of water.”

Photo courtesy:
Photo courtesy:

From this, from various scientist and organizations have concluded that “forest is a major user of water.”

According to Barnes et al (2009), forest and agricultural land greatly affect water quality and flow. The forest is a great contributor to water quality and also the quantity of water. This is the reason why conversion of forest to other land use affect water quality. Different land uses can alter the hydrologic cycle which will result to increase or decrease in water supply.

Moreover, forest provide high water quality which can be achieved through minimization of soil erosion on site, reduction of sediment in water bodies (wetlands, ponds, lakes, streams, rivers) and trapping or filtering of other water pollutants in the forest litter, particularly through the following mechanisms (Calder et al 2007).

Water delivery is also enhanced through improved water storage capacity, soil infiltration.

When I was a child my favorite movie “Ferngullly: The last rain forest” made me cry when the antagonist almost takes over the rain forest and would destroy everything.

When I found out that the relationship of these forests to our water is an important, I say, we should protect our forest.

In some studies, it shows that the extraction of trees would increase the risk of flash floods which resulted from induced water discharge.

Calder et al 2007, reported that forest removal or clear cutting increases downstream water yields or stream flow. These happens in many hydrologic process such as interception of precipitation and evaporation and transpiration from the foliage.

If cutting more trees can produce more water downstream, should we cut trees to get more water supply?


Clearing forest may increase downstream water yield, but it is only temporary and short-lived. It may also posed additional risk like flooding. Then if forest regrow, the same problem will occur – water scarcity.

Clearing of forest is no doubt an unsustainable approach to achieve sustainable water supply. (Hydrologic Effects of a Changing Forest Landscape 2008)

In 1991, I was still grade 4 then the most horrible tragedy that happened in Ormoc city and in world history.  A great flash flood took the lives of many people and people believed it’s because of illegal logging.

This is the main reason why we should take care of our environment which brings me to the next topic watershed management. This sustainable lifestyle contributes to the ability of an ecosystem to produce more.

Why on earth should we manage and invest in water resources?

 First, let me define watershed management.

According to DENR, this is the “process of guiding and organizing land and other resource uses in a watershed to provide desired goods and services without adversely affecting soil, water and other natural resources” (DENR Memo Circular No. 2008-05).

sustainable development goals
Photo courtesy:

Scientific research shows that watershed management increase water quality. Now, in relation to sustainable development goals (SDG 2015) it suggests that by 2030 participating nations who signed the SDG should be able to:

Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

6.1 by 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all.

Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

15.2 by 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests, and increase afforestation and reforestation by x% globally.

15.3 by 2020, combat desertification, and restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land-degradation neutral world

15.4 by 2030 ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity, to enhance their capacity to provide benefits which are essential for sustainable development.

15.9 by 2020, integrate ecosystems and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes and poverty reduction strategies, and accounts.

Prior to the SDGs, in the Philippines there are already established legal mandate for watershed management.

If we will not protect this one, we may miss watershed services the following values that is derived from it.

This brings me to the next part.

Watershed Services

In economic parlance, the watershed provides use values and non-use values. These are productive use (irrigation, domestic, municipal, industrial, power generation, fisheries and livestock raising) and consumptive and non-consumptive (e.g. recreation).


While those that are not consumable, but preserved for future use and is not marketed goods and services are called non-use values. You can not buy sustainable water supply today in the market rather this is in the future generation.

If we are going to account all these use and non-use values, we will arrive at the total economic value of watershed services. This is now quantifiable.

You may ask we do we need to quantify the non-quantifiable and non-marketable goods?

Good question.

If you are going to account all the benefits that is derive from watershed today that you are using such as food, water, timber, and among others – literally this has a cost.

And that cost is the amount that all people should pay if we are going to pay what we get from the watershed. But because this resource is an open access, there is a peril that it will lead to the tragedy of the commons.

You can read and download the Tragedy of the commons by Garret Hardin here.

If you are going too asked why do we need to invest in watershed management?

Does this investment water resources beneficial to human beings?

Take note of this:

watershed services
Photo: Lloyd Celeste/ Lake Sebu 2011

What are the benefits that we can get?

Benefits from watershed functions

These are just among the benefits that is derived from watersheds:

  • Reliable water supply
  • Future generation will have water supply
  • Avoid flood and landslide
  • Recreation
  • Livelihood

If we are going to pay all of these, this equals to the willingness-to-pay (WTP) for watershed protection.

In a study I conducted last 2008, I found out in the five municipalities that the benefits of watershed protection amounts to P 12,276,229.00 /yr. or P 591.87 /yr. or P 49.32 /mo.  This is the individual households WTP.

However, managing watershed is not an easy task. If you are looking to be sustainable then you should consider community participation among stakeholders.  In this way you can achieve more development in the country side.

But along these sustainable development initiatives, there are loopholes that we should look into the issues and concerns of watershed management which brings me to the next part.

Watershed management policy issues and concerns

Some issues in watershed management are hard to solve. Accept it or not. Though we have a very good scheme in water resources project, it is not exempted from the factors that affect this watershed protection.

The following list are some of the policy issues and concern I found out in literature and in my research.

slash and burn agriculture
Photo: Brgy. Pena 2, Calbayog City 2014

These are:

  • Conflicting land-uses and practices within watershed areas threatening activities includes firewood gathering, charcoal making, selling of non-timber and timber products (Wunder, 2005) which many of the land users practiced in CPHPL (Malabarbas and Celeste, 2016).
  • Inappropriate land classification and disposition of watershed areas
  • Continued encroachment and illegal occupancy
  • Lack of economic incentives for watershed management and protection.
  • Lack of social and political considerations in implementing watershed management programs (Javier, 1999)
  • Conflict of interest between upland (tenured migrants) and lowland settlers (Celeste, 2010)
  • Limited adoption and institutionalization of the watershed as a planning unit approach (Javier, 1999)
  • Reduction of budget allocation for watershed management
  • Lack of general watershed management plan

Nevertheless, we can still achieve sustainable lifestyle through community participation in protecting our watershed.

Here are some approaches that we can use as a model.

Sustainable solutions to water resources

These are two basic and simple approach to sustainable watershed management.

Non market based

Landcare approach – combination of conservation farming, agroforestry and natural resource management (Mercado and Sanchez).

– refers to a group of people who are concerned about land degradation problems and interested in working together

Market based incentives

Institutional and financial arrangements for collaborative watershed management Market-based mechanisms should be developed to recover the operation costs of watershed management though PES schemes.

Payment for Environmental Services

Water resources project also implement this watershed management scheme PES. In fact, there are many PES programs already implemented in Latin America, America, Asia and South East Asia. However, the success of these PES depends on the community participation. Since PES is voluntary, it should be made clear to the recipients of the program what are their responsibility in return of the incentive that they got from the program.

Some countries that implements PES programs:

  • Costa Rica
  • Northwestern Oregon
  • Colombia
  • United states
  • Maasin Watershed (Philippines)
  • Balian Watershed (Non-cash payments) (Philippines)
  • Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park/La Tondeña Distillery (Philippines)


Designing and implementing payment for environmental services: The Philippine Experience

Payments for Watershed Protection Services: Emerging Lessons from the Philippines


Successful watershed management approach requires   

According to Catacutan and Duqueb 2006, to have a sustainable watershed protection program for the community, it is necessary to heed to following.

  • Are there local financial investments?
  • Are there local technical and managerial capacity?
  • Is there a sound political culture?
  • Do we have clear national mandates?

In the Philippines, I found this one to be related to sustainable watershed protection.

  •  Water Crisis Act 1995 or RA 8041
  •  Clean Water Act
  •  NIPAS Act

Lastly, sustainable development through watershed management for sustainable water supply delivery needs a balanced approach in watershed management. Land use management have already been explored however the hydrologic cycle as affected to land use has seldom put into consideration.

Thus, in the near future, studies should integrate land use management and water cycle.



Delia Catacutan and Caroline Duqueb 2006. Challenges and opportunities in managing Philippine Watersheds: The case of Manupali watershed in the southern Philippines. 

Joseph R. Makuch. The Role of Trees & Forests in Healthy Watersheds Managing Stormwater, Reducing Flooding, and Improving Water Quality) Water Quality Information Center, USDA.

Visit Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences on the Web:

Why invest in watershed Management. FAO Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Rome, Italy

Barnes et al  2009.  Forests, Water and People: Drinking water supply and forest lands in the Northeast and Midwest United States, United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry 2009

I. Calder, T. Hofer, S. Vermont and P. Warren. 2007. Towards a new understanding of forests and water , Unasylva 229, Vol. 58, 2007

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2007

Hydrologic Effects of a Changing Forest Landscape 2008

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