USC, Dutch universities join Cebu River Scan Challenge 2019

Participants of the Cebu River Scan Challenge 2019 at the Septage Treatment Plant in Pilipog, Cordova, Cebu last Oct. 14, 2019 (retrieved from for augmenting water supply resources and rehabilitating of the polluted portions of the Guadalupe and Mahiga Rivers were proposed to various LGUs during the culmination of the River Scan Challenge 2019, which is a collaboration of professors and students from Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences (RUAS) and Hanze University in the Netherlands, the University of San Carlos, and the Cebu City government.

River Scan Challenge 2019 involved three Dutch professors, ten Dutch students, eight USC faculty members, and 19 USC students, divided into six teams. Team 1 consisted of Koen van der Veer, Amber Moerland, Lance Pogoy, Kara Deguit, Engr. Dave Layos, and Engr. Kathrina Borgonia. Team 2 consisted of Thomas Attema, Renske van Driesten, Sidney Ondap, Matthew Dy, Vince Bardenas, and Engr. Stephanie Canete. Team 3 was composed of Daphne van der Staak, T. J. van der Kubbe, Jerome Villena, Justine Jainar, Engr. Ryle Betito, and Engr. Dave Mag-uyon, while Floris Huisman, Kyle Henrick Elemia, Katherine Miranda, Cleo Manloloyo, Engr. Shevanee dela Cruz, and Engr. Joey Atillo composed Team 4. Team 5 included Luuke Arensman, Shane Bercede, Charles Ramos, Farah Soliva, and Engr. Jonah Lee Bas, and Team 6 consisted of Mattea Otten, Inge van Beek, Ariel Casocot, Leonard Borbon, Engr. Jemimah Perodes, and Engr. Opalyn Seno.

Senior professors who acted as consultants for the proposed solutions were Engr. Ricardo Fornis, Engr. Alex Melchor, Rick Heikoop, Floris Boogard, and Doutsen Krol.

Participants presenting solutions for the upstream portion of Guadalupe River (Team 1, left), upstream portion of Mahiga River (Team 2, center), and midstream portion of Guadalupe River (Team 3, right).

The River Scan Challenge, also known as the Climate Scan Challenge, which completed its 3rd year, held its culminating activity on October 22, 2019 at St. Mark Hotel. The nine-day run of the program was organized and coordinated by Cebu Leads Foundation Inc., who works closely with the Metro Cebu Development Coordinating Board (MCDCB).

This year the activity mapped best management practices (BMPs) on river rehabilitation, raised awareness on ways of coping with climate change, and scanned rivers for water quality improvement and flood management plans.

Participants proposed solutions for the midstream portion of Mahiga River (Team 4, left), and the downstream portions of Guadalupe and Mahiga Rivers (Teams 5, center, and 6, right, respectively).

One of the main tasks of the Filipino and Dutch students and professors was to find solutions on how to ease the problems on water shortage and rehabilitating severely polluted waters from the Guadalupe and Mahiga Rivers. These participants took the challenge of investigating the water quality, river health, and plastic pollution of the upstream, midstream, and downstream portions of the Guadalupe and Mahiga Rivers. With the use of test strips and sensors, qualitative parameters of the river water were measured. With the use of a questionnaire, the teams who were assigned on the three portions of the rivers gathered useful data by interviewing nearby residents on the existing problems that they have experienced in the past decade, including maximum flood heights.

Among the solutions that were proposed were the installation of smart garbage bins in slum areas along the riverbanks, an improved biofence that stretches down to the river bed to ensure that plastics and debris floating above and below the water surface are trapped, a dam with a rapid sand filter to enhance water quality, a series of gabion dams to trap relatively clean water from the upstream stretch of the river, and diversion channels from the main stream to infiltration basins to allow the water to replenish the groundwater and reduce the volume of flood accumulation downstream. Representatives from the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, and Talisay were present during the culminating program of the River Scan Challenge.

During its opening ceremony on October 12, 2019, institutions shared their knowledge on current programs of the Cebu City government that involved the cleaning, monitoring, and rehabilitation of ten rivers within its boundaries.

According to a Bong Espina, a representative from Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) who spoke during the opening excursion, the water agency could only supply potable drinking water of about 233,000 cubic meters per day (cmd). Actual demand was estimated to be close to 500,000 cmd, although MCWD only supplies water to about 40% of the population in Metropolitan Cebu; the remaining 60% have their own concessionaires. The daily potable water deficit could reach up to 176,000 cmd. The National Water Resources Board (NWRB) limits the periphery to which the water agency can extract more groundwater; thus, MCWD has to look for other ways to increase their daily water production. MCWD is also looking into the construction of desalination plants in 2022 as a means of narrowing down the water deficit gap.

Engr. Reston, a representative from the City Planning and Development Office of Cebu City, reported that the city government has conducted massive river clean-ups for the Guadalupe, Mahiga and Butuanon Rivers. Reston said that the current state of the said rivers, especially the downstream portions, is that it is “polluted, full of rubbish and plastics, and foul-smelling.”

Some of the point sources identified during the massive clean-up were the dumping of untreated sewage wastewater from piggeries, and industrial and domestic establishments. Cindylyn Pepito, a representative from DENR, validated that the rivers which they monitored contained high BOD and fecal coliform count, which can be attributed to the wastewater coming from these point sources. These non-domestic establishments were given a notice by the government to comply with sanitary requirements to avoid revocation of their existing permits.

For households dumping their sewage directly into the river, however, the LGU cannot issue a similar notice because monitoring them is more complex than for industries and farms. Although the MCWD mentioned shouldering the expenses for building a communal septic tank system that will temporarily receive domestic wastewater at Barangay Sambag 1, they cannot proceed without a specific location provided by the Cebu City government.

Reported by Engr. Kathrina Marie M. Borgonia, Department of Civil Engineering

Tags: Civil Engineering

This entry was posted in Events and Updates and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.