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Provide Clean and Safe Drinking Water: A Challenge to Real Estate Developers

Today, going green or being eco-friendly is no longer a matter of choice, it’s a matter of necessity. Nature’s growing unpredictability has made many individuals and companies realize that if we are to sustain our society for generations to come, we must treat nature and earth’s resources with utmost respect.

Fortunately, many real estate developers have caught on and have seen the importance of building projects that are sustainable. Thus, their emphasis on green building designs and construction.

Safe Clean Drinking Water - Real Estate Developers

In spite of these, though, there is one important environmental issue that no local developer has yet to address.

I would like to see the day when developers include among their amenities the provision of tap water that is so clean that one can drink it straight from the faucet, thereby eliminating, or at least reduce, the need for individuals or households to buy bottled water.

Bottled water not only burns a hole in your pocket, they’re one of the most environmentally-damaging commodities that we have become so used to.

The price of tap water versus the price of bottled water

I calculated the cost of tap water (we’re being served by Maynilad or the MWSI). The minimum monthly payment is 106 pesos for 10 cubic meters (cbm) of water.

1 cbm = 1,000 liters
10 cbm’s x 1,000 liters = 10,000 liters
Therefore, 106 pesos / 10,000 liters = 0.0106 peso per liter

A well-known brand of bottled water costs 65 pesos per 6 liter bottle or 10.83 pesos per liter (note that the smaller the bottle, the pricier the water becomes).

Ergo, bottled water is at least more than 1,000 times more expensive than tap water.

The environmental cost of bottled water

According to a 2007 report of the Worldwatch Institute, a US-based environmental research organization, massive production of bottled water results to excessive withdrawal of natural mineral or spring water thereby threatening local streams and ground water.

Equally disturbing is the environmental impact resulting from the production of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic to make the water bottles.

Being plastic, PET’s are petroleum-derived materials that worsen the already dwindling supply of non-renewable fossil fuel.

"Producing one kilogram of virgin resin PET requires 17.5 kilograms of water and results in air emission of 40 grams of hydrocarbons, 25 grams of sulfur oxides, 18 grams of carbon monoxide, 20 grams of nitrogen oxides, and 2.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide.” That’s just for the production of the raw material, not the bottles themselves.

According to the same report, this means that… "in terms of water use alone, much more is consumed in making the bottles than will ever go into them.”

Bottled water is also distributed in a very inefficient manner. From the factory, they are delivered by trucks to their various destinations. Even neighborhood water refilling stations deliver water to their costumers mostly using tricycles thereby increasing fossil fuel consumption and carbon monoxide emissions.

I don’t have to delve into the amount of plastic waste resulting from our consumption of bottled water, we already know that.
The health hazard of PET bottles

PET bottles are meant for single use and should never be reused for an extended period of time. If used repeatedly they, can leach carcinogens to the water. The chance of this happening increases if the PET bottle is placed in a refrigerator’s freezer.

What real estate developers can do

Consumers in industrial countries choose to drink bottled water for convenience, while in developing countries like the Philippines, unreliable and unsafe municipal or city water supplies have driven the growth in consumption of bottled water. And here’s where real estate developers can help a lot if they are sincere in practicing green development.

Here are some examples

Let’s take for example the approximately 240-hectare Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

There, utilities like electricity and even liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are distributed through an underground system. Large water reservoirs assure strong water pressure 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Given these amenities and the owners’ (Ayala Land, Inc, Evergreen Holdings of the Campos Group and the Bases Conversion Development Authority) concern to protect the value and attractiveness of this township, can’t they come up with a system that will provide safe and clean drinking water straight from the faucet for all the office, commercial and residential developments there?

Is it too costly or too difficult to install drinking fountains in these establishments considering the alternative? By the way, I very seldom see drinking fountains nowadays. I think the bottled water industry killed them off.

Another example is Ayala Land’s Nuvali in Laguna. I honestly think that Ayala Land has outdone itself in making this project truly sustainable. Their system to conserve, recycle and reuse water is admirable. But there is no mention in their master plan about safe and clean drinking water from the tap.

The willingness to deliver clean drinking water should not be limited to developers of large projects like Bonifacio Global City and Nuvali. Even condominium developers can pursue this idea.

If they can boast of several modern and even futuristic amenities that cost several millions of pesos to construct, can’t they at least provide their unit buyers access to one of man’s most basic needs and help ensure a more healthy and sustainable environment at the same time?

Just thinking out loud; what do you think?

Author: Cecilio A. Sanchez, Jr. (Licensed Real Estate Broker)
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