Project: Dumaguete City Septage Management System, Philippines

Content Table

1. Overview and key points

The Septage Management System of the city of Dumaguete consists of the first city-wide septic tank maintenance program in the Republic of the Philippines to be financed by the local government coupled with a low-cost, low-maintenance decentralized wastewater treatment facility.  The project was motivated by an assessment of the city which found there to be 20,000 poorly designed and improperly maintained septic tanks that functioned largely without government regulation and without a city-wide sanitary sewer system.  The Septage Management System is based on an equal partnership between the water utility company and the local government of Dumaguete in which revenue is evenly split.  It is estimated the project will achieve full cost recovery through user fees after five years.

2. Background

In 2004 the local government paired up with the United States Agency for International Development to participate in the Local Initiatives for Affordable Wastewater Treatment program.  The program conducted a number of stakeholder workshops to discuss wastewater management and also performed a comprehensive assessment of the status quo management.  The assessment found a number of points of concern: the city’s water source relied on 16 deep wells, there were 20,000 septic tanks with poor maintenance and design that were largely unregulated by the government, the city was without a sanitary sewer system, and the sea-fronting Rizal Boulevard was quickly deteriorating.  

3. Project planning and design

In 2005 the city passed the Septage Management Ordinance which increased user fees and also required septic tanks to be properly designed and regularly desludged.  Dumaguete began construction of the treatment facility in 2008 with technical assistance provided by the USAID.  In 2009 the city government signed the Memorandum of Agreement which detailed the conditions of the partnership.  Construction of the project was completed in May of 2010 at which point six used desludging vacuum trucks were purchased and operation of the treatment facility began. 

4. Technology option

A city-wide sewerage system was beyond the financing capabilities of the city government, thereby leaving a city-wide septage management system as the only option. The choices for the treatment facility were limited to either a mechanized system or a non-mechanized system such as a system of stabilization ponds. A mechanized system requires a stable electrical power supply and also entails large operating expenses for power, maintenance, and replacement of equipment, thereby making it an unfavorable option for Dumaguete. Consequently the city selected a non-mechanized system consisting of stabilization ponds that has the advantages of being low-tech and ideal for the tropical location with lots of available land.

5. Institutional and management arrangements

As elaborated in the Memorandum of Agreement between the city government and the water utility company, the water utility company collects and transports septage to the treatment facility while the city government manages the treatment facility. 

6. Financing arrangements

The water utility company is responsible for the billing and collection of septage user fees as a fee supplementary to the monthly water bill. All operating expenses (septage collection, transport and treatment plant operation, equipment acquisition, site improvements, etc.) are to be paid by the septage user fee income. Every quarter the water utility company submits a financial report to the city government. Of the net income, 20% is set aside as reserve/contingency funds while the remaining 80% is divided equally between the city government and the water utility company.  Thus far, both parties have received their respective shares despite expenses for improvements and equipment acquisition made since the start of operation in July 2010.

7. Project outcomes and impacts

Operations from May 2010 - April 2011

Source                 Number of Establishments Volume of Septage collected, cu.m.

Residencial properties                 2801                            9875
(Total 25,000)

Commercial Establishments              282                            1818

City and Provincial Govt.              100                            1202
Offices, Other LGU 

Public Schools                          14                             289

Others                                  73                             733
(private schools, churches, NGOs, LGU)

8. Overall sustainability of system

The city government adopted and approved through its legislative body a local ordinance detailing the city’s Septage Management System.  The ordinance states the rationale, user fees, operation, management and penalties. Unless otherwise repealed or amended, the septage management ordinance remains valid, thereby ensuring sustained operation.

9. Lessons learned

• The septage collection crew requires extensive training on the specific vacuum truck models that are used, thereby preventing extensive damage.
• Take proper measures to prevent the stabilization ponds from leaking and be prepared if leaks do occur.  Proper preparation includes: measures for controlled emptying of a leaking pond; regular maintenance which includes sealing leaks and cleaning the ponds of mud, sludge, and stones; and sufficient equipment – water pump, brooms, flat shovels, buckets, boots, and gloves – in case of emergency.
• Regularly remove dried sludge from the sludge drying bed with heavy equipment and ensure that septic tanks have sealed bottoms.
• It is important to coordinate the schedules for desludging between the septage treatment staff and the desludging crew.  Additionally, it is recommended that hotels are desludged every four months as the septage collected thus far has high organic content and suspended solids which can negatively affect the treatment facility.
• Inform food outlet operators that it is important to prevent oil and grease from getting into the septic tanks, and refuse to desludge septic tanks with visible grease.
• An extensive media campaign with focus on the city’s Septage Management System is important to clarify the benefits of the program and the reason for additional user fees.
• Establish fees for desludging septage from adjoining municipalities.  

10. Recommendations

a. The national government should strictly implement the country’s Clean Water Act which requires the operation of a septage management system if a sewerage system is not available.
b. Encourage local governments and communities to operate a septage management system to protect water sources.
c. Any project such as septage management should include social marketing as a major component.


There was not much use of textual references, but visits to treatment facilities both in the Philippines and abroad were useful to assist decision making.

12. Contact details

Ms. Josephine M. Antonio
City Planning and Development Coordinator
City Government of Dumaguete
City Hall 6200
Tel. 63 35 225 0386
Fax 63 35 422 4891

Mr. Rogelio Clamonte
City Environment and Natural Resources Office
City Government of Dumaguete
City Hall 6200
Tel. 63 35 225 9881

Mr. Manuel T. Sagarbarria
City Mayor
City Hall
Dumaguete City 6200
Tel. No. 63 35 225 0640


Alandur Sewerage Project in India
Decentralized Wastewater Management, Kieu Ky.
Faecal Sludge Management, Malaysia .
Ikotoilets, Kenya.
Sulabh community blocks, India .
Slum Sanitation Program, India.
Public Toilet with Biogas plant, Kenya.
Six example of wastewater reuse after reed bed treatment, UAE.
Community Ablution Blocks with DEWATS in eThekwini Municipality, South Africa.
Low cost sewerage systems in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Wastewater Recycling Project, South Africa. 

Related Publications

Designing Wastewater Systems According to Local Conditions - David M Robbins 
Publication Date: Jan 2014 - ISBN - 9781780404769

Public Private Partnerships in the Water Sector - Cledan Mandri-Perrott and David Stiggers 
Publication Date: Mar 2013 - ISBN - 9781843393207

Source Separation and Decentralization for Wastewater Management - Tove A. Larsen, Kai M. Udert and Judit Lienert
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