Baguio City Takes Steps to Ease Water Pollution

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Balili River in Baguio City, Philippines flows through the Valley of Colors, famous for its cluster of houses turned into a huge, vibrant piece of art. Yet, the dull waters of the river imply that the Baguio Sewage Treatment Plant (BSTP) barely two kilometers away is inadequate in stemming water pollution.

To address this issue, the city government took steps to improve its wastewater management together with flood and drainage initiatives. As observed during the recent CDIA monitoring visit, many of these efforts were derived from the pre-feasibility study (PFS) conducted by CDIA in 2016.

Baguio is a highly urbanized city with an estimated population of 330,000. Being the summer capital of the Philippines and an education hub, the city sees tourism and education as growth areas. Along with this growth comes development challenges.

One of which is sanitation. While septic tanks are widely used, a third of the urban population is connected to a sanitary sewerage network served by the BSTP. By design, its capacity is 8,000 cum/day but its current inflow is already 12,000 cum/day. Its saturated condition combined with untreated discharges from communal septic tanks contribute to the deterioration of the city’s river systems.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau has cited the very poor water quality of Baguio’s rivers, specifically the record setting levels of fecal coliform content in both the Balili and Bued Rivers.

Meanwhile, the rugged topography and intense rainfall experienced in Baguio result in flash floods and rain-induced landslides. Climate change assessments predict an increase in the frequency and intensity of rainfall, thus, exacerbating flooding and landslides.

In 2016, CDIA completed a PFS for the Green and Integrated Wastewater Management for Baguio. Its main objective was to improve the water quality of the city’s rivers through the implementation of sound wastewater management initiatives and improvement of the city’s drainage and flood management.

Three years after the completion of the PFS, CDIA, through its Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist Nick Baoy and Urban Development Specialist Brian Capati conducted a monitoring visit to validate reports that some PFS recommended investments have been taken forward and linked to both national and city financing.

In terms of the wastewater component, although there have been no physical improvements yet, significant steps have been taken by the local government. The city has leveraged USD 4 million from the national government/Department of Tourism for the BSTP upgrade and network repair and expansion; and the construction of the Lower Rock Quarry wastewater treatment plant.

Improvements to the wastewater management facilities of the city’s slaughterhouse and wet market (key sources of water pollution) have likewise moved forward with the proposed transfer of the slaughterhouse to a new location while incorporating the necessary wastewater management facilities at the start of the new facility’s construction. Meanwhile, consultations, budgeting and initial engineering designs (which include wastewater management features for the wet market) have now been initiated for the proposed reconfiguration of the city’s public market.

Furthermore, the Baguio Water District (BWD) and the city government are initiating discussions to transfer the wastewater management responsibilities to BWD. Water districts in urbanized cities like Baguio are mandated by law to manage wastewater services.

In terms of improving drainage and flood management, an initial estimate of USD 15 million have been leveraged from both national and local sources.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), handling drainage improvements along national roads have implemented/are implementing drainage projects in the City Camp Lagoon such as the DPWH tunnel construction, and drainage canal debris interceptor. It has also embarked on the rehabilitation of the city and national roads’ drainage systems and flood mitigation works on the city’s river systems.

On the other hand, the City Engineering Office has improved the city’s drainage systems. In addition, it has significantly accomplished Baguio’s sinkhole protection program. Sinkholes facilitate the natural drainage of surface runoff in the city. The protection of sinkholes from blockages caused by debris is one of the major PFS recommendations.

From the monitoring visit, it was seen that the ongoing and completed urban infrastructure related to integrated wastewater management in Baguio City are linked to the PFS prepared with the assistance of CDIA back in 2016. Even as the implementation of wastewater management projects encountered delays, most of the drainage infrastructure projects have been funded and executed as planned.

Factors that facilitated the implementation of the PFS-prioritized projects include: (1) alignment of the projects to the city and national plans; (2) financial support from the city and national government; and (3) strong demand from city stakeholders to find a long-term solution to the flooding problem in the city.

The CDIA experience in Baguio City offers a number of lessons relating to preparing projects on wastewater and drainage management. These include: (1) the value of incorporating a comprehensive climate change resilience approach in the project design; (2) importance of adopting a consultative and inclusive project prioritization and design process to ensure ownership of project outputs; and (3) the importance of incorporating capacity development and institutional strengthening measures in project designs to ensure sustainability of project operations and benefits to the city residents.


(photo retrieved from:

Baguio Cityscape

Wastewater Management Improvements:

Flood and Drainage Improvements:


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