No immediate relief from water service interruptions
MANILA, Philippines — Metro Manilans can expect longer water service interruptions in the coming weeks as the reserve in Angat Dam may not rise to normal levels until early July.
Angat Dam, in Bulacan province, supplies 97 percent of Metro Manila’s water needs.
Sevillo David, executive director of the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), told a news briefing on Monday that reduced water allocation from Angat to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) would be maintained up to at least the end of June.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) on Monday said the Angat reserve could hit its lowest level, 157.57 meters above sea level (masl), this week if lack of rain persisted.
Pagasa said at least one to two storms bringing heavy rain would be needed to lift the water level in the dam.
The weather bureau said the heavy rain during the weekend was not enough to replenish the reserve, the elevation of which was recorded at 158.92 masl on Monday afternoon, marking a decrease of 0.53 meters from the previous day.
Danilo Flores, a hydrologist with Pagasa, said the recent rains were due to localized thunderstorms, not heavy or consistent enough to refill the dam.
To raise Angat’s elevation back to its minimum operating level of 180 masl, at least 400 millimeters of rain would be needed, falling right on the dam’s watershed, he said.
Low pressure watched
“Based on our records, we need at least one to two storms to bring it back to the minimum operating level and at least three to four storms to refill it to 210 masl, which is its normal high water level,” Flores said.
Pagasa was watching a low-pressure zone located 610 kilometers east of Casiguran, Aurora province, on Monday afternoon.
But while it may become a tropical depression in the next 48 hours, Flores said it was expected to recurve and not hit land, and would therefore not have a significant impact on Angat.
The low pressure, however, could induce the southwest monsoon, which may bring rains over the Angat watershed, Flores said.
“Based on our records, we expect the watershed to begin its recovery by mid-July,” he said.
That agrees with the NWRB’s calculation, necessitating shorter water service in Metro Manila.
The board first reduced supply to the MWSS from the normal flow of 48 cubic meters per second to 46 cms on June 1.
On June 20, the supply was further reduced to 40 cms as Angat prepared for low-water-level operations.
On June 22, the MWSS supply was cut yet again as the reserve fell below 160 masl.
Concessionaires Manila Water Co. Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. started implementing longer hours of low pressure to no water in their service zones during the weekend.
“We are monitoring the water level at Angat as well as the weather as we want to avoid making decisions on further reduction of allocation,” David told Monday’s news conference.
MWSS Chair Reynaldo Velasco said the limited supply needed to be managed so that all customers would have water even for only several hours a day.
“What is important is that people get the water at their homes, without the need to wait for tanker trucks on the street,” Velasco said.
“We ask the concessionaires to follow the schedules they announced,” he said.
“For consumers, we ask them to store the amount of water that they actually need [and not hoard],” he added.
Metro daily supply
In Bulacan, Patrick James Dizon, MWSS division manager, said water supply for Metro Manila would be reduced to 3.1 billion liters until June 30.
Rain during the last 24 hours raised the stock at Ipo Dam by 1 cm to 99.81 masl as of Monday morning, closer to its minimum maintaining level of 101 masl.
At Bustos Dam, also in Bulacan, the reserve dropped from 13.69 masl on Sunday to 13.50 masl on Monday, way below its spilling level of 17.50 masl.
Ipo and Bustos dams catch water released by Angat for irrigation.
The reserve at La Mesa Dam in Quezon City also rose by 1 cm to 68.66 masl, nearer to its critical level of 69 masl.
The House of Representatives is looking into the water shortage in the metropolis, with officials of Manila Water and Maynilad invited to the opening hearing on Tuesday.
On Monday, Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy called for making the two concessionaires public utilities to make them subject to the rules of public service and to the auditing authority of the Commission on Audit.
Dy said the “second round” of water service cutoffs in Metro Manila, following a shortage in March, merited a harsher rebuke and a deeper congressional inquiry.
“We have given [the] MWSS enough time to solve the persistent problems with their public utility services,” she said.
“Since the regulators have either been slow or inept or both at doing their job, we shall file a bill that [would] prescribe details of their regulatory powers,” Dy said. “Public utility declaration for water concessionaires has long been overdue.”
In a protest action in Quezon City, Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate decried the failure of privatization and called for “renationalization” of the water service.
“There is no water security under privatization and this will get worse unless the government acts now. We have always asserted that privatization is wrong,” Zarate said.
“We must abandon privatization and [the] government should take over these water [concessionaires] to ensure not just water security but also transparency and accountability,” he added. —With reports from DJ Yap and Carmela Reyes-Estrope