ANGELES CITY, January 9, 2004 (STAR) By Rocel Felix - If people don’t start conserving water, it’s quite possible that farms and households in Metro Manila and parts of Central Luzon will be facing a dry, dry summer as the area’s water reserves are dwindling due to lack of rain.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) said the scant rainfall since October has greatly reduced the water level of the Angat water reservoir, the main water source of Metro Manila and parts of Bulacan and Pampanga.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the absence of tropical cyclones in northern and central Luzon since October was the main reason for the reservoir’s low water level.

"Usually, Luzon experiences an average of about two tropical cyclones in October, making it possible to impound a large volume of water in the area. Also in November and December, the paths of the tropical cyclones that entered the country were far to the south of Central Luzon," explained Nathaniel Cruz, a PAGASA meteorologist.

Cruz noted that the weather in the next four to five months normally brings rains only to the eastern coast of Luzon, the Visayas, and northern Mindanao.

NWRB executive director Ramon Alikpala said that as of yesterday, the level of the Angat water reservoir was 201.56 meters, 4.75 meters below what experts call the lower rule curve. He said the difference in elevation is equal to 88.19 million cubic meters.

"This developing situation could seriously impact on domestic water supply and affect both irrigated and non-irrigated agricultural lands," said Alikpala.

To conserve the limited water reserves, the NWRB and DENR asked the Manila Water and Sewerage System (MWSS) and the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) to reduce their respective water requirement by five percent this month.

"We are sounding the alarm early on to avoid a water shortage and for the public to start conserving water," said DENR Secretary Elisea Gozun, adding that the MWSS and NIA might be asked to further cut down on their water requirement if the water reserve level reaches a more critical level.

The reduction effectively translates to a slash in domestic, agriculture and industrial water supply by almost 200,000 cubic meters based on the daily consumption of 3.974 million cubic meters.

Early estimates showed that the reduction will affect the water supply of about 80,000 households or an equivalent of 480,000 people.

For irrigation, about 1,250 hectares out of the 28,000 hectares programmed for irrigation in 2004 will be affected and a crop loss of 150,000 cavans of palay is projected.

Last year, palay production was severely affected by the El Niño phenomenon which, although considered mild compared to the 1997 weather disturbance, hit the country’s major rice-producing regions. This forced the country to import 845,000 metric tons of rice.

Gozun said that before the situation worsens, the public should conserve water through recycling used water, repairing faucet leaks, watering plants early in the morning or after sunset to minimize evaporation, scraping off excess food and scraps from the plate before washing and using basins in washing dishes, saving rinse water for flushing the toilet or cleaning the car, capturing rainwater for use in washing clothes, flushing the toilet and even for watering plants.

GMA to Bayani: Solve water woes The Philippine Star 01/09/2004

With 300 barangays in Metro Manila are nearly waterless and President Arroyo has tasked the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to find a permanent solution to the problem, according to MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando.

"Naatasan kami ng Pangulo na pakialaman na ang problema bilang MMDA," Fernando told reporters.

The MMDA chief said he was given the assignment at the Cabinet meeting held last Wednesday.

"May mga 300 barangays ang kapos sa water supply dahil sa wala silang natatanggap na serbisyo mula sa mga water concessionaires," Fernando said.

Some 300,000 individuals from slum areas and subdivisions are deprived of a good and regular water supply, he added. — Nikko Dizon

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved