'Water for irrigation to last 10 days'

By Dino Balabo, The Philippine Star

Posted at May 13 2014 04:37 AM | Updated as of May 13 2014 12:37 PM

MALOLOS CITY , Philippines – The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) yesterday said it still has 10 days worth of water supply for irrigation in Bulacan and Pampanga.

This came as water elevation at the Angat Dam further dropped to 179.67 meters above sea level as of 2 p.m. yesterday after hitting the critical 180 masl at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

“We have enough water for the next 10 days for at least 1,100 hectares of ricelands in Bulacan and parts of Pampanga,” said engineer Precioso Punzalan of NIA.

The National Power Corp. (Napocor) cut the supply of irrigation at 2 p.m. yesterday. Protocol dictates that once the water supply in the Angat Dam falls below critical level, the irrigation supply is immediately cut, followed by the supply for power plant if water level continues to fall.

The NIA said the Bustos Dam, which receives water from the Bayabas River, can supply the irrigation needs of ricelands in Bulacan and Pampanga that are still in the reproductive stage.

NIA administrator Claro Maranan said the Bustos Dam can supply around 17 million cubic meters of water to farms needing irrigation.

The drop in the water elevation at the Angat Dam, however, will also reduce power generated from the 218-megawatt hydropower plant by 10 MW, Napocor said yesterday.

“Ten megawatts will be reduced in the reserve of the Luzon grid once irrigation water (from the dam is stopped),” Napocor president Gladys Sta. Rita said.

The Angat hydropower plant has been generating only around 20 MW because of repair and maintenance works. These are part of the preparation for the turnover to the new owner, K-Water Resources Corp. of Korea.

The Angat Dam provides for about 90 percent of Metro Manila’s water requirements. Even at a water level of 170 meters, the reservoir can supply the needs of the metropolis.

“Water for Metro Manila will continually be supplied by Napocor at its present rate of four centimeters until May 21 per previous order of the National Water Regulatory Board. This will continue until new order is issued by the NWRB,” Sta. Rita said.

The government is implementing cloud seeding operations to improve the water elevation of Angat Dam.

Punzalan said the NIA is coordinating with the regional office of the Department of Agriculture and the Provincial Agriculture Office of Bulacan to facilitate the distribution of water pumps to be lent by DA to affected farmers.

Farmers can use the water pumps to draw water from creeks and rivers. However, saline water has intruded into creeks and rivers in the province.

With regard to pumping water from the ground, Punzalan said it is too late because irrigation authorities still have to borrow equipment.

Rainwater collection law

Meanwhile, House Deputy Minority Leader Arnel Ty prodded the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) yesterday “to forcefully put into action” Republic Act 6715, or the Rainwater Collector and Springs Development Act of 1989, that calls for the installation of rainwater collectors in every barangay amid warnings of possible drought this year.

“We are now counting on DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson… to give the highest priority to the performance of the law requiring the widespread construction of rainwater harvesters,” Ty said.

El Niño is expected to bring below-average rainfall in the country over a nine-month period, from the second half of this year until the first quarter of 2015, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

Section 2 of RA 6715 states that “the Department of Public Works and Highways shall, within 30 days after the approval of this Act, undertake the construction of water wells, rainwater collectors, development of springs and rehabilitation of existing water wells in all barangays in the Philippines in such number as may be needed and feasible, taking into consideration the population, hydrologic conditions, costs of project development and operations, financial and economic factors and institutional arrangements.” – With Czeriza Valencia, Iris Gonzales, Paolo Romero, Rudy Fernandez, Rainier Allan Ronda