Building a more resilient water network in the Philippines


By Leong Chee Khuan, Area Managing Director for South Asia and General Manager for Grundfos Pumps Sdn Bhd

Water is a precious and increasingly critical resource. Water security has become one of our most urgent environmental crises as well as our fastest-growing social, political and economic challenges faced today. Increasing water scarcity and pollution, rapid population growth and urbanisation are major factors posing fundamental challenges to the global water cycle, with a particular pressure on the urban water supply.

Most countries in Asia are not spared, and this includes the Philippines, which is experiencing rapid population growth, with a projected population of 150 million by 20501, and is becoming increasingly urbanised. Water supply and sanitation has been unable to keep up with the growing population and rate of urbanisation. Additionally, climate change, inefficient and excessive water use, pollution and increasing volumes of food production put pressure on the country’s water systems.

In the Philippines, water comes from various sources – groundwater, rainfall and surface water, such as reservoirs, rivers, and lakes. Despite the abundance in water sources, significant seasonal variations and imbalanced geographical distribution often result in water shortages, especially in densely populated areas during the dry season.

A recent example was when Manila experienced its worst water crisis in nearly a decade earlier this year. The crisis comes as a stark reminder that water security needs to be a top priority. We need to not only review existing water networks and put in place plans to expand national water systems capable of moving water effectively and efficiently, but the government and private sector need to work together and coordinate more effectively on development issues.


The local infrastructure capacity in the Philippines is unable to keep up with demand and efficiency levels are not optimised. While the Philippine government has been driving greater efforts through increased investment towards its water networks, industry players are also responsible for introducing innovative solutions given their expertise in the water sector.

For example, a key part of the water network is pumping stations that collect and transport wastewater. However, traditional pumping stations are made of concrete casted on-site, which not only means greater time spent on construction and detailed planning, but also susceptibility to chemical corrosion and subsequent leakage over time.

They also occupy a lot of space, which is an issue for the rapidly urbanising country. Grundfos has introduced a prefabricated pumping station, which has been developed to optimise pumping station design and operation and reduce energy consumption. The prefabricated pumping station is designed to be energy efficient and operates reliably in the long run. Made of hardwearing plastic, its greater durability paired with an advanced control system means optimised operations and in turn greater energy savings.

Requiring a shorter construction timeframe, Grundfos’ prefabricated pumping station can support the expansion of a water network in a shorter timeline. Compared to traditional pumping stations, this prefabricated pumping station is produced in the Grundfos factory and sent to the site as a complete package, making installation easier. This reduces installation time by as much as 80 per cent, ensuring minimal disruption to people and infrastructure.


With rainfall being one of the key sources of water for the Philippines, stormwater management is also a key in the entire water network – keeping enough reservoir storage space available to manage floods during heavy precipitation, but also storing enough water to protect against drought.

Flooding is a constant issue for the Philippines. Heavy precipitation, storm and flood events are expected to increase, putting pressure on many regions, urban systems and transport infrastructure. The Philippines is situated in an area experiencing severe weather conditions on a frequent basis, with an average of 20 typhoons each year. These events are expected to become more severe.

Each situation for flood control and water management comes with its own unique issues and requires very specific approaches. Whether it is urban, coastal or river flooding, the ability to provide a customised solution for every installation is crucial, as waters from muddy and sometimes polluted confluences, will require different pump capabilities to those operating in sea water barrages or freshwater lakes.


Additionally, the expansion of water systems will put greater management challenges on operators and owners, making it necessary to put in place advanced monitoring systems to control increasingly complex networks. With intelligent technology, water management can be pre-emptive and predictive, ensuring that we are constantly monitoring the conditions of our water systems and attending to each and every change adequately and addressing any issue before it happens. Water providers around the world are increasingly leveraging realtime sensors and data analytics to support their daily operations.

With digitalisation, water providers can use technologies that intelligently adjusts water flow according to demand through the use of remote sensors. This reduces any excess water pressure, which in turn limits water leakages and losses, minimising cost and energy.

Digitalisation also empowers distribution models that can recommend when assets need to be replaced. Pumps, sensors, meters and pump controllers can now all be connected to a centrally hosted server via an internet-based system. This allows for changes in performance and energy consumption to be tracked and documented, even automatically generating reports and trend graphs, giving an indication of wear or damage to businesses to plan service and maintenance accordingly.


We ultimately need public-private partnerships to ensure that new innovations are not only developed, but also incorporated on a large scale. Industry players can introduce innovative solutions to address water-related issues, as well as bring unique expertise to the table; while a mandate and support from the government is critical to a project’s success.

By leveraging synergies in research and development, and through the exchange of best practices, such partnerships ensure faster and more effective development and deployment of innovative and efficient water management solutions.

Water management is one of the biggest socio-economic-ecological issues of the 21st century, not just for the Philippines but across the globe. Innovation is key for governments and industry to drive water efficiency and inculcate a culture of water conservation at the critical rate and scale we need.

*Article can be found on Water & Wastewater Asia Jul/Aug 2019 issue.