It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Manila Water Co. Inc., one of two concessionaires servicing Metro Manila and the nearby provinces, has not been forthcoming about the service interruptions suffered by its 6 million customers.
On Tuesday, the company said it had no choice but to “severely reduce” water distribution in view of the low water level at La Mesa Dam, which in turn was caused by the dry spell brought about by the El Niño phenomenon.
Geodino Carpio, chief operating officer for MWCI operations, said because of a shortage of raw water supply at La Mesa Dam, the company felt compelled to impose service interruptions in several parts of its service areas in the east zone of Metro Manila and Rizal as well.
The company issued a statement after its customers complained about unannounced service interruptions—with no word about how long these would last.
But the weather bureau and the water administrator are puzzled by Manila Water’s initial claim, because La Mesa Dam is only a reserve source of water, as both water concessionaires are supposed to draw water from the Angat Dam, which has not reached its critical level.
Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System Administrator Reynaldo Velasco told CNN Philippines he believes Manila Water has always been drawing some water from La Mesa Dam, and not Angat.
“I told them that's supposed to be [a] reserve, but they have been drawing water. That's why it's now… low," Velasco told CNN.
Now we have learned that Manila Water may have already drawn its allocation of 1,600 million liters per day (MLD) from the Angat Dam, which provides about 96 percent of Metro Manila’s water supply requirement. Because demand has gone up to an average of 1,740 MLD, the company has been filling its deficit from the La Mesa Dam.
Manila Water’s West Zone counterpart, Maynilad Water Services Inc., which has an allocation of 2,400 MLD from Angat, has not reported a similar supply problem and has even agreed to help Manila Water.
Upon the request of the MWSS, Maynilad said it would supply 50 million liters of water per day to Manila Water starting in April to ease its shortage.
But this is just a drop in the bucket, and Manila Water customers are expected to keep suffering a shortage until the rains come, perhaps in three months.
Amid all this disruption, Manila Water’s initial explanation that its woes were caused by the El Niño seems to be oversimplification, at best. Its customers do not need watered-down excuses and deserve to know the real score. How long will the supply shortage last, and what is the company doing specifically to alleviate this problem in the short term, and more importantly, solve it for next year and the years after that. We trust it will be a better plan than simply wait for the rains.