By: Hizbullah Arief *
Kupang has a potential to turn back water scarcity to water abundance if the city manages its water resources sustainably and builds adequate infrastructures that enable effective and efficient water resource use.
These findings are drawn from CRIC Partner’s visit to the city on 25-28 February 2023. Sara Silva, CRIC partner from ECOLISE got the opportunity to examine the city’s condition firsthand. She spoke with the city’s officials and met with impacted communities and learned how the city and its communities adapted to the area’s ongoing environmental problems.
During project’s visit to City’s Planning Agency Office/Bappeda, Sara was informed that Kupang has a long dry/summer season period, for 8 months, with just 3 months of rainy season. This has contributed to the city’s ongoing water problems. The city is working to solve water scarcity problems by coordinating with relevant partners like local water companies and public works agencies.
Sara, herself a landscape architect and community facilitator, observed, the main problems are not only the city’s climatic conditions, but also how they manage water resources and distribute water in the area.
Furthermore, excessive reliance on groundwater mining and severe lack of infrastructure for water distribution and surface water harvesting have contributed to the city’s condition, in which people frequently experience severe drought in the summer while flooding in several areas during the rainy season.
Kupang’s water resources include groundwater and surface water from two rivers and water springs. “Maximizing the use of surface water and at the same time reducing the use of groundwater are important to sustain the city’s water resources and reduce environmental hazards,” Sara said.
The city needs to improve water distribution by fixing and expanding the already old piping infrastructures. Otherwise, private companies will continue to benefit from the lack of water distribution infrastructures at the expense of the communities. “Private companies explore springs (the ground water) and sell the water to villagers costing them 20-50% of their monthly budget,” Sara explained.
Sara devises concrete solutions for these problems. According to Sara, the city's 2 rivers: Dendeng and Liliba, have enough capacity to meet the population’s water needs all year. “One water harvesting and treatment facility that is available, is working at a very low capacity. The capacity could be upgraded from (capacity for) 1000 households to 15,000 households while waiting for distribution networks in place (2023-2024),” she stated.
“By completing and maintaining the distribution network of water for the existing water treatment station and reservoir, and complement it with other surface harvesting systems, Kupang would have its water needs covered from renewable sources of water,” added Sara.
Stop Groundwater Mining!
Sara has also strongly rejected some plans/ideas to build a desalinisation plant for sea water and an underground dam for groundwater, citing potential socioeconomic and environmental hazards. “Groundwater mining is depleting surface water resources, causing land subsidence and ruining pipe infrastructures, causing clean water to be contaminated by salty water. Groundwater mining is not a resilient and sustainable option,” Sara emphasised. Sara welcomes local regulations that already prohibit groundwater mining.
CRIC Project observed during the visit that the city had been working on direct solutions to water scarcity by developing water harvesting and infiltration facilities in collaboration with Gadjah Mada University and community leaders.
We learned from community leaders after constructing water infiltration facilities or wells in the area, people in Naioni Climate Village are no longer experiencing severe drought. While one rainwater harvesting system that has been installed in Oesapa Climate Village could serve a family of 5 between 2 and 3 weeks. In 2024, the city plans to establish 8 climate villages.
Other interventions, the city will also have 2 new dams built by the national government and implement conservation areas, that are protected from new building development in mountain areas. With all of these initiatives, the city hopes to turn back its condition from water scarcity towards water abundance in the future. The uplifting condition could only be achieved, only if the city could implement all the above interventions and solutions to manage all their water resources sustainably.
* Hizbullah Arief is CRIC Project Manager