HCM City hopes to wean people off groundwater hinh anh 1A household in HCM City’s District 12 uses water from a well despite getting tap water (Photo tuoitre.vn)

HCM City (VNA) -
Experts recommended solutions to protect Ho Chi Minh City’s groundwater sources and public health at a dialogue on December 7.

It was organised by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper and attended by experts, officials from the city's Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Department of Health, the Sai Gon Water Supply Corporation (SAWACO), and other agencies.

Ngo Cao Lam, head of the Preventive Medicine Centre’s environmental health department, said since 2014 the centre has tested more than 1,400 water samples from many areas around the city, especially from wells.

The acidity and iron levels failed to meet the Ministry of Health’s standards while the micro-organism and ammonia content were at harmful levels, he said.

The centre recommended that people should boil water before consuming it, he said. In areas where the ammonia levels are found to be too high, people should stop using groundwater and switch to tap water, he said.

Nguyen Phat Minh, a hydro-geologist, said the city has many wells that used to be safe in the past but are now too polluted.

It is necessary for local authorities to closely monitor drilling of wells since the use of traditional techniques often makes the groundwater harmful, he warned.

Besides, he said, the city’s groundwater sources have an “open” structure, meaning they are vulnerable to saltwater intrusion and so must be used cautiously.

Authorities should make use of scientific research into water quality in the Dong Nai and Sai Gon rivers to ensure they do not waste this source, he added.

Nguyen Thi Thanh My, Deputy Director of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said the city plans to  ensure supply of clean water to all households to safeguard people’s health and reduce the use of often harmful groundwater.

“In the past groundwater in Cu Chi and Hoc Mon districts used to be of very good quality. But it has now decreased in terms of both quality and quantity.”

Groundwater is mostly used by households and businesses, she said.

Over 700,000cu.m of groundwater is used daily, but the department hopes to reduce this to 100,000cu.m by 2025.

My said the Law on Water Resources only requires a licence if 10cu.m or more of groundwater is used per day and this has caused excessive exploitation.

She said she would petition for this law to be amended.

Her department has submitted a map showing areas where groundwater exploitation in the city should be forbidden and is awaiting approval from the Government, she said.

A Sawaco representative said many households refuse to use tap water even when they are provided it.

“In the last three months the company has contacted many non-users and reduced water fees by 50 percent to encourage them to use tap water,” he said.

The company plans to offer more such incentives to coax people into using tap water, especially in outlying areas and temporary residents, he said.

He suggested that authorities should raise people’s awareness of the damages caused by over-exploitation of groundwater, and persuade them to stop using wells.-VNA