Water rationing looms in Metro Manila

By Rhodina Villanueva, The Philippine Star

Posted at May 08 2014 04:47 AM | Updated as of May 08 2014 12:47 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The National Water Resources Board (NWRB) yesterday warned the public that Metro Manila could face water rationing if the water level continues to drop in Angat Dam in Bulacan. Angat supplies potable water to the metropolis.

Jorge Estioko, officer-in-charge of the NWRB deputy executive director’s office, said the agency would have to decide if they would retain the existing water allocation or reduce water supply of Metro Manila next month.

He added that in the case of water supply reduction, the agency would have to pinpoint specific areas in Metro Manila where such measure will be implemented.

On Tuesday, concerned officials recorded Angat Dam’s water level at 181.92 meters.

Maynilad Water Services Inc., the country’s largest water utility firm, is expecting a worst case scenario of around 60,000 households suffering from water supply disruptions in August should the absence of rain continue.

While supply remains normal so far, water level at the Angat Dam continues to decline, a situation that calls for the public to conserve water to prevent the repeat of the widespread water shortage during the El Niño phenomenon in 2010, company officials said yesterday.

“We’re preparing for the worst. The worst was in 2010 when water (level at the Angat Dam) went down to 157 meters above sea level. We’re trying our best to carefully monitor the protocol of releases of water in Angat Dam,” said Maynilad president and CEO Victorico Vargas.

During the El Niño in 2010, around 322,000 Maynilad customers suffered from disrupted water supply. However, the west zone water concessionaire has already implemented contingency plans, including the construction of nine water reservoirs.

“If 2010 happens again today, we will have lower pressure but there will be water. At worst, about five percent or 60,000 of our customer base will be affected,” Vargas said, adding that some customers might no longer enjoy 24 hours of water service.

Maynilad chief financial officer Randolph Estrellado said as of Tuesday, water level in Angat Dam was at 181.92 meters but it drops by around 30 centimeters per day.

Should lack of rains continue, water level at the Angat Dam might fall to the critical 180-meter level by May 14 and further decline to 157 meters – the same as 2010 level – in August, Vargas said.

Manuel Pangilinan, chairman of Maynilad’s parent firm Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), said that while the water utility is pursuing the reduction of non-revenue water, the public should cooperate by conserving water.

Non-revenue water, or water lost through leaks and theft, fell to 35.3 percent in the first quarter from 39.9 percent a year ago with Maynilad’s repair of 9,117 leaks. When MPIC took over Maynilad in 2007, non-revenue water stood at 68 percent.

A meeting set for the third week of May will discuss Metro Manila’s water allocation, which for sure will not consider additional water supply given the continuing drop in the water level of the said dam in Bulacan, said Estioko. – With Neil Jerome Morales, Evelyn Macairan