Heat starts to dry up dams in Luzon

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BOATS at the Ambuklao Dam reservoir. Photo by EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

CITY OF MALOLOS—The intense summer heat and lack of heavy rains in wide areas of northern and central Luzon have started taking their toll on major dams in these regions.

Reports gathered by the Inquirer showed that water levels in dams supplying power and irrigation in Cagayan Valley, the Cordillera and central Luzon have started dropping.

In Angat Dam, which supplies water to Metro Manila, water level on Thursday dropped to 204.64 meters above sea level (masl), which is 3.66 meters lower than the March 27 record of 208.3 masl. The dam’s normal high water level is 210 masl.

Alfredo German, Angat River Hydro Electric Power Plant (Arhepp) general manager, said the water drop was normal, though.

He said what dam officials are worried about is El Niño. “It will be a big problem. We should build more reservoirs immediately,” he said.

During the 1998 El Niño, water level in Angat dropped to 157 masl, according to records from the provincial disaster risk reduction and management council.

Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado said a new dam along Bayabas River in Doña Remedios Trinidad town will help deal with water shortage in the reservoirs of the Angat, Ipo and Bustos dams in Bulacan.

Alvarado said the provincial government is also repairing Bulo Dam in San Miguel town and Bustos Dam in Bustos town not only to prevent floods but also to store water.

Angat Dam also supplies irrigation to some 35,000 farmers in 17 towns in Bulacan and four towns in Pampanga.

In Isabela, Saturnino Tenedor, Magat Dam instrumentation section chief, said the reservoir’s level on Thursday was at 174.15 masl, way below its normal high level of 193 masl. He said he is hoping that rains in the Magat watershed would help.

In Pangasinan, farmers getting irrigation from San Roque Dam in San Manuel town, need not worry, said Tomas Valdez, San Roque Power Corp. vice president for corporate responsibility.

He said the dam’s water level as of Thursday was 238.98 masl. “But the dam still has enough water until the last day of irrigation is needed by farmers,” he said.

Oftociano Manalo, head of the irrigators association in Ilocos, however, said at least 300 hectares of rice lands in San Manuel could be affected by repairs on irrigation canals.

In Nueva Ecija, water elevation at Pantabangan Dam was at 189.27 masl on Thursday, said Rose Bote, head of the dam’s engineering and operations division. The dam’s normal water level is 221 masl.

Despite the drop, the dam continues to supply irrigation water, dam officials said.

In Benguet, water level in Ambuklao Dam on Thursday was at 747.81 masl, below the normal level of 752 masl. At Binga Dam, water level on Thursday was 569 masl, below the normal level of 575 masl.

In the Ilocos, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources regional director Nestor Domenden said while the heat has not disrupted aquaculture in the region, he warned fish growers against sudden rains that could lead to thermal shock deadly to fish in ponds and cages.

He said the heat may even be advantageous, as fish farms could grow more natural food. But farmers should be on alert, he said, because heavy rains, especially in the middle of the day, could lead to fish kill. Reports from Carmela Reyes-Estrope and Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Central Luzon; and Yolanda Sotelo and Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon

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