EDC utilizes water for both domestic and operational purposes. Our geothermal assets use water in various phases of our operations: for drilling, power plant cooling towers, and washing equipment during maintenance activities.
EDC ensures that all water sources in the sites are permitted, monthly consumptions are in compliance with regulatory limits, and that EDC operations do not contribute to water stress. Our comprehensive site watershed management programs ensure sustainable water from within our area of operation and flowing downstream. Externally, water use is reported to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB); and to the National Water Resources Board (NWRB). Historical water withdrawal has been well below permitted limits.
This figure shows the amount of water withdrawn by each EDC geothermal facility from 2016 to 2021. Leyte recorded a 73% reduction in water withdrawal in 2021 after its drilling operations and workover activities commenced in 2019. In the same year, Negros and Mindanao facilities were found to have a 27% and 68% increase in water withdrawal due to the commencement of drilling activities in their respective sites.
Despite a significant increase in water use brought about by drilling works in 2021, EDC extracted water way below 5% of the estimated catchment output. Ensuring minimal water stress and availability of clean water resources for use by communities downstream are equally important since we may be facing water-related issues based on the climate and water risk projections (PAGASA, 2018; Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas).
To further minimize our impacts, we participate in water management at the watershed level on a larger scale through our geographic Watershed Management Plan. EDC has a Water Budget Study, which simulates the water balance contribution at the catchment scale at each geothermal area. Using this study and assessing our annual discharge established more climate-resilient, responsive, and strategic watershed management approaches.
For a more comprehensive, ecosystem-based management, EDC collaborates actively with external stakeholders to protect, rehabilitate, and restore the forest and promote development in upland communities. We constantly improve these programs and feedback mechanisms to enable more efficient water monitoring and watershed management.
Through our BINHI and watershed management programs, EDC does its part in addressing the deforestation and forest degradation crisis. These initiatives also aim to mitigate the impacts of the worsening climate change effects such as forest loss and vegetation mortality.
Challenges in the water supply are evident as well. Based on the 2017 Philippine Climate Change Assessment Working Group 2: Impacts, Vulnerabilities, and Adaptation, we are faced with a potential drop in water supply due to climate change, a growing water use competition, and an increase in water pricing (Cruz et al., 2017). These are also addressed through our watershed management initiatives. In 2021, we observed sustainable water withdrawal within the allowed limits, ensuring an insignificant effect on freshwater resources. During the year, EDC also restored an additional 570 hectares of forests across our project sites with indigenous trees under the BINHI program which have an 80% survival rate. With an enhanced forest cover, we can help the environment regenerate and sustain freshwater supply