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WATER WORLD The Metro Manila skyline dwarfs the fish pens of Laguna de Bay. The 900-square-kilometer lake may possibly be the answer to the critical water shortage afflicting the metropolis. EDWIN BACASMAS

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WATER IS LIFE Residents of Barangay Batasan Hills in Quezon City queue for the precious resource rationed by a Maynilad water tanker. Many parts of Metro Manila are without water because of the critical level of Angat Dam in Bulacan. RAFFY LERMA


Laguna de Bay seen to ease Metro water crisis

By Christian V. Esguerra, Amy R. Remo, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:56:00 07/21/2010

Filed Under: Water Supply, Crisis

MANILA, Philippines?Authorities and water distributors are considering tapping Laguna Lake and other new sources for the water needs of Metro Manila, which has been hit by rationing because of the very low level of Angat Dam, the metropolis? main source of drinking water.

Maynilad Water Services Inc. has resorted to rotating water interruptions in large swaths of its west zone concession area over the past several days.

Its counterpart in the east zone, Manila Water Co., is mulling water rationing in the coming weeks as rainfall is expected to normalize only by September.

Maynilad Water has started drawing water from Laguna Lake, the country?s largest lake, for its customers in Muntinlupa City since June.

Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said the government was looking for alternative sources of water like Laguna Lake, Marikina River and Pampanga River to mitigate the effects of the drought.

Laiban Dam

Maynilad and Manila Water themselves are drawing up plans to tap new water sources.

Herbert Consunji, Maynilad chief operating officer, said the new water sources included the controversial Laiban Dam (the development of which was shelved earlier this year), Wawa Dam and Umiray-Sumag?all in the Sierra Madre mountain range?and the Pampanga River.

?We have talked to Manila Water and we will jointly initiate these projects to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to accelerate the development of the new water sources,? Consunji said.

He said Metro Manila should not be dependent on one source ?so we have to look into several options which should not necessarily be a big water source.?

As of Tuesday, the level at Angat Dam stood at 157.79 meters above sea level (masl), still lower than the dam?s lowest level of 158.15 masl in September 1998, an El Niño year. The level was also way below the so-called critical level of 180 masl.

The dam currently supplies more than 90 percent of the domestic water supply of Metro Manila, home to some 12 million people. The increase in the Angat Dam?s water level is highly dependent on rains that will fall on Bulacan.

Macra Cruz, MWSS officer in charge, said July was expected to bring below-normal rainfall, August near-normal rainfall and September above-normal rainfall.

Cloud seeding

For now, Cruz said the MWSS was set to implement other mitigating measures like cloud seeding, which it has coordinated with the Bureau of Soils and Water Management of the Department of Agriculture.

?We are already discussing the details and I think we can start [today]. It just depends on the clouds. The estimated cost is around P3.2 million, which will be shouldered by the concessionaires,? Cruz said.

Cruz also said the MWSS water level estimates by September were higher than those announced by Maynilad.

Without significant downpour, Cruz said the MWSS expected the water level to fall to 149 masl compared with the 147 masl estimate of Maynilad.

Conserve water

As of Sunday, 18 percent of Maynilad?s customers had water supply for only up to six hours. Water supply was available to 29 percent of its customers for 7 to 12 hours and to 53 percent for 13 to 24 hours, according to Consunji.

Maynilad and Manila Water are appealing to the public to conserve water.

Sevilla advised residents against storing water more than what the family would need for a day to avoid a faster depletion of Metro Manila?s water resources.

Storing more water may attract mosquitoes that carry virus that causes dengue, he said.

?We are saying this not to cause panic and alarm. The intention is to make people understand that water is a treasured resource so people should go for a responsible and wise use of water,? Sevilla said.


Singson wondered why Metro Manila was experiencing a shortage although Tropical Storm ?Ondoy? (international codename: Ketsana) and Typhoon ?Pepeng? (Parma) dumped more than enough water last year.

In Malacañang, Singson Tuesday identified the culprit as the National Power Corp. (Napocor) for releasing from Angat Dam last year water ?the equivalent of three months? supply of domestic use for Metro Manila.?

At its current water level of 157.6 meters, the dam?s supply would be good for only 60 days assuming the absence of any rainfall, he said.

?If only [Angat?s water] was managed properly, we would not have any of these difficulties or at least, [a problem] not as severe as what we?re encountering at this time,? Singson said at a media briefing following a four-hour Cabinet meeting.

He called for a revised protocol in releasing water from the dam, which would make the measure more responsive and ?dynamic.?

He noted that water was released despite an impending drought several months later.

?They should revise their water protocol and people should also be accountable,? Singson said.

Rate increase

A militant party-list group said the Maynilad warning of a severe water shortage was just a ?pretext? to the long-delayed plan of its owners?Metro Pacific Investments Corp. of Manuel V. Pangilinan and construction and property giant DMCI Holdings Inc.?to jack up water rates.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño said Maynilad?s advisory on a water crisis sounded similar to the warning of a power crisis by another utility monopoly, Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), which the latter used to justify its demand for a power rate hike.

Maynilad used to be owned by the Lopez Group which runs Meralco along with Metro Pacific?s Pangilinan.

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