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Angat dipping; supply cuts feared

The water at Angat Dam has breached the 180-meter critical level since last April as El Niño caused below-average rainfall across the country.

At 6 a.m. on Wednesday, June 12 the water hit 164.48 meters. This is way below Angat Dam’s normal high water level of 210 meters.

State weather bureau PAGASA said the current level is nearing the lowest level recorded in July 2014 when the water level dipped to 162.74 meters.

“Meron kaming na-observe na malalakas na rainfall sa may bandang Zambales, minsan sa bandang Bicol, Cavite, Laguna which is malayo naman sa watershed ng Angat Dam,” PAGASA Hydrologist Elmer Caringal said.

(We have observed heavy rainfall in areas near Zambales, occasionally in Bicol, Cavite, and Laguna which are far from Angat Dam watershed.)

According to the National Water Resources Board said the water at the dam may fall even lower, and may even fall below the 160-meter level, which could trigger service interruptions or result in poorer water quality.

It added, however, that at 164.9 meters, the water is still sufficient to supply the 46 cubic meters per second allocation to Maynilad and Manila Water.

But if rains don’t fall in sufficient quantities soon, the water level is projected to fall at a rate of 0.38 meters per day, which means it will dip below 160 meters in the next 10 days.

Regulators and water concessionaires now brace for the possibility that the low water level may cause more supply interruptions.

Authorities said they may opt to reduce allocation to water concessionaires which will lead to further service interruptions, or open the dam’s low-level outlet to maintain the water allocation for consumers.

Still, the NWRB said Angat’s low level outlet releases murkier water, which treatment plants may find harder to purify.

“May question of water quality, yun ang binabantayan namin, mino-monitor natin but for now, during our discussion, mukhang manageable ang water quality issue,” said NWRB executive director Sevillo David.

(There’s a question of water quality, that’s what we’re monitoring, but for now, during our discussion, it looks like the water quality issue is manageable.)

David added that Angat Dam will not be able to provide for irrigation this month of June per protocol of the agency which prioritizes the water requirement for Metro Manila.

“Sa protocol (kapag) below 180 meters (ay) priority ang water supply for evaluation ng Board if magre-release for irrigation,” he said.

The National Irrigation Administration noted, meanwhile, that farmers in Bulacan and Pampanga are expected to begin cropping season in August when they will be needing water from Angat Dam.

Still, the agency expects cropping to be ahead of schedule with the coming rainy season.

At present, Angat Dam’s allocation for Metro Manila stays at 46 cubic meters per second.

Maynilad Water Supply Operations head Ronaldo Padua, meanwhile, said they may need to use more chemicals to treat water.

“Nag-stock naman kami ng mga water treatment chemicals, na posibleng tataas ang aming kunsumo para lang ma-address ang tinatawag na manganese at saka yung high turbidity mula doon sa Angat,” Padua said.

(We’ve stocked up on water treatment chemicals and may consume more of them just to address the manganese and high turbidity from Angat.)

Manila Water, on the other hand, said that if treatment plants can’t handle the water quality issue, they may need to cut production which will impact consumers.

The Ayala-led concessionaire is still dealing with supply issues in its concession area.

“Ngayon pa lang kami nakakaahon pero ang sitwasyon namin ay very unstable, very volatile,” said Manila Water corporate communications head Jeric Sevilla.

(We are just starting to recover but our situation is still very unstable, very volatile. Adding that Manila Water still has a supply deficit of around 40 million liters per day.

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System has already asked elders of the indigenous Dumagats who reside in the mountains and forests around Angat to conduct a ritual to ask the heavens for rain.

Authorities also appealed to consumers to continue conserving water.

READ: MWSS urged to set water security masterplan

READ: Wawa Dam project seen to solve water crises in 2 years

Topics: Angat Dam , El Niño phenomenon , Elmer Caringal , National Water Resources Board
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