CLARK FIELD, PAMPANGA, January 15, 2004 (STAR) By Ding Cervantes - The National Power Corp. (Napocor) is bracing for a worst scenario should the water level of the Angat Dam, a major source of electricity for the Luzon grid, continues to fall.

As it is now, the state-run power firm is alarmed by the damís water level which, as of yesterday, reached 200.74 meters, lower than the projected 205.45 meters this time of the year.

"This is alarming for us. Our main concern is that the exposed banks will dry up and erode into the dam, consequently reducing its reservoir capacity," said Mel Chiu, Napocor vice president for hydro-power generation.

The Napocor operates a 200-megawatt hydro-thermal plant at the dam and a 40-MW "auxiliary" plant downstream.

If the dry spell continues, Chiu said Napocor has no option but to shut down the 200-MW power plant.

He added though that independent power producers (IPPs) could fill in the shortfall.

The Angat Dam, operated by the National Irrigation Administration, also supplies tap water to Metro Manila and irrigates neighboring farmlands.

"If more and more water is allocated for the water consumption of Metro Manila, less would go to the production of power and irrigation," Chiu said.

For one, Bulacan farmers now fear a shortfall in palay production since the Angat Dam, located in Norzagaray, Bulacan, can irrigate less hectarage if its water level continues to fall with the lack of rainfall.

If irrigation water from the dam is cut off, some 29,000 hectares of farmlands in Bulacan and Pampanga will be affected.

To avert such a contingency, the Air Force launched here the other day a 15-day cloud-seeding mission to induce rain over the Angat Dam.

Capt. Salvador Flores, of the 900th Air Force weather group, said their operations would depend on the presence of "tall and thick cumulus clouds" over the Angat Dam area.

Government authorities have advised Metro Manilans to save water because of dwindling supply.

Sources claimed that had the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System pursued proposed projects of alternative water sources in Quezon, Muntinlupa and Tanay, Rizal years ago, the looming water crisis could have been averted.

Meanwhile, while the Angat Dam is drying up, the water levels of the Pantabangan and Magat dams in Nueva Ecija are way above projections, Chiu said.

Both dams irrigate thousands of hectares of ricefields in Central and Northern Luzon.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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