The Septage Management System of the Baliwag Water District, Philippines –

Posted by 23 Jan, 2013

The Municipality of Baliwag is located in the Province of Bulacan in the Philippines, just about an hour’s drive north of Metro Manila. The urban LGU has a population of over 160,000 and is the financial, commercial, and educational center of the Province of Bulacan, with the majority of these residents receiving their water supply – and soon their sanitation – from the Baliwag Water District (BWD).

The BWD, like other water districts in the Philippines, is a government owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) focused on providing water and sanitation service on a baliwag1.JPGcost-recovery basis. Water districts around the country are coordinated by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), a unique GOCC itself that is tasked to promote and oversee the development of WatSan systems outside of the Metro Manila area.

In the Philippines, sewerage is rare / mainly non-existent outside of the Metro Manila area, with most residents in urban areas relying on septic tanks, most of which – in absence of any formal sanitation program – are often poorly designed and rarely desludged. This results in widespread groundwater contamination and polluted rivers from the discharges of septic tank effluent directly to drainage canals.

Awareness is rapidly rising around the country about the seriousness of this sanitation problem though, and a wide variety of both donor-driven and locally-driven sanitation programs are now underway, including a variety of septage management programs. However, to date, these existing septage management programs have been undertaken by the LGU/private sector (e.g. in San Fernando City, La Union), by an LGU-water district partnership (e.g. in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental), or by a mainly private sector ‘build-operate-transfer’ style of arrangement (e.g. the programs of Manila Water Company Inc. & Maynilad Water Services Inc. in the Metro Manila area).

baliwag2.JPGThe BWD, though, decided to try a different arrangement with its new septage management program: one led entirely by the water district, with very little LGU/government collaboration. The BWD, led by its dynamic and learned General Manager since 1995, Mr Artemio Baylosis, has rapidly grown from an insignificant, 1000-connection provider to the significant and respected provider it is today, ISO-9001 certified and with over 25,000 connections accounting for about 80% of the total population of Baliwag, which is better coverage than many other water districts in other urban areas around the country.

Through the initiative of Mr Baylosis and the BWD team, the BWD, in 2008, secured the support of the USAID-funded Philippine Water Revolving Fund (PWRF) to fund a feasibility study on septage management for the water district. From the data and analysis gathered by this study, the BWD was then able to pursue their own program without any further donor assistance, the planning for which began in 2009.

The next step after the feasibility study was to ensure a suitable regulatory environment for the program. The BWD worked with the local government of Baliwag to help them pass an ordinance in 2009 that allowed the establishment of the BWD septage and (future) sewerage management program. This was not a particularly comprehensive nor proactive ordinance for the LGU, but was sufficient to allow the BWD to be proactive on their own initiative. In addition, the BWD and LGU signed an MoA in 2010 to provide further details on the sharing of responsibilities for the septage management program. Most of these responsibilities were taken on by the BWD, with the LGU simply in charge of levying fines where necessary and in supporting the outreach efforts of the BWD about the program.

The BWD then required a source of funds to manage this program. Rather than rely on donor assistance, the BWD simply secured a 60M Peso (~$1.5M USD) loan from thebaliwag3.JPG Philippine National Bank, with a 10-year repayment period and 7% interest.

With these funds, the BWD could then launch into the program planning and consultations. They conducted a thorough public information drive across the entire LGU, to discuss and seek feedback on the program’s legality, guidelines, and proposed tariff structure. During this time, the BWD also engaged in a ‘Water Operators Partnership’, through the USAID-sponsored Waterlinks program, which linked them up with Indah Water Company in Malaysia, for joint trainings, site visits, and consultations on technical aspects of Indah’s already successful program.

Through this, the BWD was able to design their program to incorporate elements already proven to be successful, and build off of the unsuccessful elements of other programs. On desludging, the BWD decided to split their service area into 5 zones, with the goal of desludging one zone each year, so as to achieve a regular, once-every-5-years desludging cycle for its customers. However, they also do not plan on charging any additional fees if customers want to avail of additional desludgings within this 5-year period; if they desire 2 or 3 desludgings during this time, the BWD hopes to be able to do this for them without any additional fee.

baliwag4.JPGThe BWD is able to make this offer because, unlike a private company, they do not need to make a profit, only to recover their costs. This also allows them to offer a low water tariff, with the subsidised price of the first 10 cubic meters at only ~145 Pesos (just over $3USD), with average monthly water consumption in the community at approximately 20 cubic meters. And because of their 80% water supply coverage, they thus decided to use this water tariff as the basis for financing their septage management costs. Their financial models determined that a fixed charge of 10% of the user’s total water bill would collect enough to recover the costs. Thus, the previously mentioned 145 Peso bill, as of June 2012, became a 160 Peso bill. The community was consulted on this tariff structure and were agreeable to it. So far, as of Dec. 2012, no one has complained about the new fee, even though the desludging service has not yet begun.

In addition to the desludging service that the BWD will offer, they also plan on taking responsibility for enforcing properly-designed septic tanks in the LGU, both for old tanks and new constructions. For the former, they hope to inspire maintenance/upgrading via consultation with customers and fines if necessary, while for the latter, they plan on visiting new construction sites to ensure that the septic tanks are properly designed. They have also already begun collecting data on every septic tank of their customers. Currently, they have just noted the number of household users of the tank and its general location on the property (e.g. on the left side / right side / inside / etc.), but they soon hope to begin mapping each of these tanks into their GIS/GPS database, for easy reference and route planning for desludging. Properly-designed septic tanks (i.e. 2 or 3 chambers and sealed at the bottom) are important, since many of the country’s existing tanks are sized too small for their daily flow rate and are not sealed at the bottom, resulting in widespread groundwater pollution.

A problem that has faced previous septage management programs is that of availment rates. Even if customers are paying (e.g. through the water tariff) for the desludging service, availment rates of this service have often been as low as 50%, due mainly to the desludgers’ rules about the lifting of the septic tank lid. In previous programs, the desludger required residents to lift the septic tank lid if they wanted to avail of the service (to avoid any liability related to potentially damaging the lid), but this was often complicated by the fact that many septic tanks here are built without a lid and/or are built in a difficult-to-access location, such as under the kitchen.

Learning from this, the BWD will try a different approach. In the first 5-year cycle, the BWD will lift all of the lids themselves, a day or two in advance of the planned baliwag5.JPGdesludging, and if there is no lid, the BWD will drill one themselves by breaking a hole through the floor. Then, in the second 5-year cycle, the customers will be responsible for lifting their own lids. They are not concerned about liability, as their activities are supported by the LGU’s ordinance, though it remains to be seen whether this will be enough to prevent any complaints on potential damage. If successful, though, this approach could greatly increase availment rates, and thus greatly reduce the amount of ground/surface water pollution from overflowing septic tanks.

Turning now to the technology, the BWD purchased two, 5 cubic meter desludging trucks (at a cost of 17.4M Pesos (~$420,000 USD), which they hope to run at 3 loads per day, 5 days per week. These trucks will bring the septage to the new septage treatment plant (SpTP), which is currently under construction in the LGU. The BWD purchased the land for this plant itself, even though the LGU is supposed to be legally obligated to provide it, thus showing the BWD’s desire to do it themselves. The construction of their SpTP and the office / laboratory building that will rise beside it were contracted out to two different local engineering companies. The SpTP will have a capacity of 30 cubic meters per day and will cost 32.7M Pesos (~$800,000 USD) to build. In addition to their regular desludging, the BWD also hopes that this capacity will allow the acceptance of some septage from neighboring LGUs or from small private desludgers, with a tipping fee applied. In theory, the site could also be upgraded to accept sewage one day, as they chose a location in a lower elevation area as compared with the rest of the LGU. The site is also strategically located in terms of odor – it is beside a smelly pig farm and duck farm, so it is unlikely that these neighbors will complain about odors from the plant!

baliwag6.JPGThe SpTP uses a highly mechanised technology package, which was chosen by the BWD so as to minimise the exposure of its staff to raw septage, even though this option is more expensive than a less mechanised version. Their technology process is as follows:

1) Macerator and/or bar screen – These will be able to run in series or parallel. The use of the macerator will depend on how much electricity it consumes.
2) A joint garbage screen / sand screen / FOG (fats/oils/grease) screen unit
3) Holding tank (with mixer) – 2 tanks, each with 2 days of holding time
4) Pump line, with cationic polymer injection, leading to the dewatering screw press (solids from this and the aforemention garbage / sand will fall into a pickup truck)
5) Equalisation Tank
6) Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR) (Consisting of: a – Equalisation tank {aerobic} , b – SBR {aerobic} , c – Chlorine contact tank (Cl will drip in in liquid form), d – Effluent holding tank -> Discharge to storm drain. e – Sludge from tank B will get pumped to a sludge digestion tank, for further holding time, which will overflow back into tank A)

The aerobic portions are serviced by 2 blower motors. The site will also have 2 big water tanks for drinking water and recycled/rain water for use on site. The effluent can also be recirculated after the screw press back into the holding tank if so desired for further treatment time. The biosolids/sludge from this SpTP will be composted for local use around the LGU.


As of this writing (Dec. 2012), construction of the SpTP was nearly complete, with testing and commissioning to follow from Jan. to Aug. 2013, with the goal of project turn over and full operation by Sept. 2013. Even though it has not yet begun, the innovative design being used here by the BWD is already being mimicked by neighboring water districts in their septage planning, and it thus stands to serve as a model for water district-led septage management in the Philippines, with its lessons being applicable to septage management programs around the world as well. now features one-week direct shipping to the Philippines. Shipping one Ultrameter III 9P to the Philippines costs only $35 plus taxes and duties.



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