Access to Adequate Clean Water and Sustainable Environment

A Human Right

Delia B. Senoro/Associate Professor/Mapua Institute of Technology

Delia B. Senoro, PhD
Professor and ABET Coordinator
School of Civil Engineering and Environmental and Sanitary Engineering
Mapua Institute of Technology
Manila, Philippines


Creating water resource in an environment of diminishing water supply but of increasing water demand is providing people the right to live. The World Health Organization projected that two out of three persons in the world may be living in water-stressed conditions by the year 2025 if global water consumption continues. The Global Water Intelligence (Corbet 2009) projected a demand for recycled water by 2015 of about 181% increased from 2005 (Laughlin, 2009). Water stress and poor access to sufficient clean water lead to water related diseases and eventually death.  Providing adequate water resource to people is a subsidence to life; however, excessive water is a disaster. Therefore, proper environmental management and protection, that includes upholding human right to live beyond our own service life, is necessary.

In September 2009 in the Philippines, considerable areas in Luzon Island were covered with water due to series of typhoons. Dam and flood gates were opened to release water as level went up beyond the capacity of these structures. There were series of water releases as there were series of typhoon events in the Philippines by weekly recurrence. Soils were saturated, zero probability for infiltration and percolation; hence, precipitation became runoff. Surface water level was high as river and stream morphology was affected. People were shouting “HELP, WATER IS EVERYWHERE!” There was water even inside my own house, a condition and environment which I told myself, “Engineering solution is necessary; however, human rights technology must be developed.

 Barely seven months after the flood, people (specifically in National Capital Region, Central and Southern Luzon where flood occurred in September) shouted “HELP, NO WATER!”  Are these scenarios and events could be blamed to force majeure only?  Is this local, regional or international chain of environmental transitory activities?  Is this one of the manifestations of climate change? Your answer may be “Yes” or “No” but there is one answer that for surely everybody must say, i.e., “I will do my part to provide solution. I will contribute my share to provide my descendants much better environment than what I have now.” These are exactly the words that are stored in my heart, and my conscious and unconscious mind. As a doctor in environmental engineering and civil engineer with experiences of more than two decades in the construction industry, I told myself, “there is a need to replicate myself.” This is theprimary reason of my staying in the academe; i.e., to teach in order to produce more technical and responsible people, to do research works to discover more solutions to civil and environmental related problems and to publish and share ideas for the welfare of the world.

When people were shouting help for there was no water around I told myself, “if only we have water related structures that could store those waters around seven months ago we would have no water shortage problem.” Then, I have started my share in giving solution; i.e., teaching students appropriate design criteria for water related structure that could withstand 100-year average recurrence interval. By designing structures that encourages infiltration and groundwater recharge to minimize runoff.  To create facility for surface water and runoff harvesting, water purification, and wastewater recycling for potential water resource; develop building construction materials from wastes are among the others. These activities are contribution to life subsidence and environmental protection that would lead to sustainable environment which everybody has the right to have. So, start making your own share..…start in yourself..…respect others’ right to live…..develop human rights technology!