Magat nearing critical level

By Charlie Lagasca and Raymund Catindig, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 05 2014 09:07 AM | Updated as of Jul 05 2014 05:07 PM

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines – Threats of power shortage continue to haunt the Luzon grid as the water level of the Magat Dam remains in critical level or less than two meters above its minimum operational level to generate electricity.

As of noon yesterday, the dam’s water elevation slightly increased by .3 meters to 161.8 meters from last Thursday’s 161.5 meters, but still near the 160-meter critical level, said engineer Saturnino Tenedor of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), which manages the dam’s irrigation facility.

The SN-Aboitiz Power (SNAP), which owns and operates Magat Dam’s power component, said the 160-meter mark is the dam’s minimum operational level for power generation.

Lawyer Mike Hosillos, SNAP’s vice president for corporation communications, earlier said they had been operating at a reduced capacity since last month due the continued drop in the dam’s water reserves.

Besides providing irrigation to more than 80,000 hectares of farmlands in Isabela and parts of Cagayan and Quirino, the dam also contributes at least 380 megawatts to the Luzon grid, making it the second biggest power provider among hydro-dams in Luzon.

The Isabela electric cooperative has warned power consumers of possible rotating blackouts in the coming days once the Magat Dam’s water elevation reaches its critical level.

The dam last shut down, affecting the entire Luzon grid, in March 2010 when its water level dropped to 152.7 meters.

Authorities said the dam’s irrigation facility would be temporarily shut down if the dam’s water elevation reaches below 150 meters.

The more than three-decades-old Magat Dam, once Asia’s biggest hydroelectric dam, had its all-time low of 149 meters in July 1991.

NIA has limited its supply of irrigation to some of its service areas due to the limited inflow of water into the dam’s reservoir.