NIA rations water for farm irrigation to prioritize Metro Manila
CITY OF MALOLOS, Bulacan, Philippines — The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) announced over the weekend that it has begun to ration water for farms in Central Luzon in order to prioritize the water needs of Metro Manila.
Francis Clara, chief of the NIA water control and coordinating, announced the usual dry season rationing as the water level of the Angat Dam reservoir in Norzagaray, Bulacan, swiftly dwindled.
The reservoir’s water level was at 201.86 meters above sea level (masl) on Saturday, dropping by 11 meters in 20 days, from 212.26 masl on Feb. 12. The reservoir’s normal high water elevation is usually at 212.00 masl. Clara said the allocation for Bulacan and Pampanga farmers and their rice paddies will progressively be reduced throughout April until it is cut off at the end of the month.
But he clarified that the irrigation rationing is not expected to affect agricultural production and prices as most rice farmers have already harvested their crops beginning in March and the crops that remain standing crops are due for harvest at the middle or the end of this month.
“We will have a reduction of request for water supply because the palay have ripened already and are bound for harvest before the April 30 cut-off. By this cut-off time, the palay have already been harvested,” Clara told Inquirer in a phone interview on Saturday.
Clara said they will no longer ask for any allocation from the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) this month because farmers will not need any irrigation supply.
Angat Dam’s water will then be purely devoted to supplying the need of Metro Manila, particularly during this dry season.
El Niño expected
On the other hand, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), which regulates the supply of Metro Manila’s two water concessionaires — Maynilad and Manila Water — wants more allocation as the dry season intensifies.
Meteorologists have also predicted the onset of the El Niño phenomenon from July to September and that may persist until 2024.
Meanwhile, a representative for the agricultural sector urged Congress to hasten the passage of the proposal to create a Department of Water Resource Management (DWRM).
AGRI party-list Rep. Wilbert Lee’s House Bill No. 2880 is among at least 33 proposed measures filed since last year seeking the creation of the DWRM.
Lee said that under HB 2880 and the other pending bills at the lower chamber, all agencies concerned with the country’s water resources would be consolidated under the proposed DWRM.
HB 2880 provides that P2 billion would fund the setup and initial operation of the DWRM and its subsequent funding would be included in the annual national budget.
Lee said the government needs to urgently roll out mechanisms and infrastructure to help agricultural workers amid a “looming water crisis.”
“Even without El Niño, many of our farmers already suffer from the effects of water shortage,” he pointed out, adding that many agricultural lands dry up without available irrigation systems to tap into, reducing their productivity.