MULTIMEDIA

Tragedy of the Commons: Water shortage as El Niño strikes

Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 07 2019 01:32 PM | Updated as of May 07 2019 06:19 PM

Still reeling from the recent water shortage in March, Metro Manila residents are urged to use water wisely as water level in Angat Dam dips further, breaching its critical level of 180 masl (meters above sea level) on Sunday, April 28.

Angat COMPARATIVE IMAGES

 

2019- most recent/ critical levelWater level at 179.97 on April 28, 2019

2010- historic lowWater level at 157.56 on July 18, 2010

2011- normal levelAngat water level at 202.5masl on Janurary 11, 2011

2019- most recent/ critical levelWater level at 179.97 on April 28, 2019

2010- historic lowWater level at 157.56 on July 18, 2010

2011- normal levelAngat water level at 202.5masl on Janurary 11, 2011

2019- most recent/ critical levelWater level at 179.97 on April 28, 2019

2010- historic lowWater level at 157.56 on July 18, 2010

2011- normal levelAngat water level at 202.5masl on Janurary 11, 2011

It was as early as Sept. 2018 when PAGASA warned about a possible occurrence of El Niño on the last quarter of the year extending to several months of 2019.
Though weather agencies predict a weak El Niño, it is still expected to cause dry spells, given the below normal amount of rainfall during the first quarter of 2019 and could cause drought if climate conditions would not improve.

In February, PAGASA warned that water level would drop below the Angat dam’s critical level of 180 masl by June. However, the decline in Angat’s water level came 2 months earlier on April 28, when water level registered at 179.97 masl. The dam’s water level is at 175.65 masl as of May 7, 2019.

The persistence of the weak El Niño that started late 2018 brought below normal rainfall in the area hosting the Angat watershed, resulting to low water inflows from its major tributaries - the Matulid, Talaguio and Maputi rivers.

Historically, the dam’s minimum operating level was breached 4 times since 2010, the year it recorded a historical lowest level at 157.57 masl on July 18, 2010.

A careful look at the Angat Dam Operational curve published by the National Water Resource Board (NWRB) shows the 2019 curve seemingly declining faster compared to the 2014, 2015, and 2016 levels.

Graph by Pam Ramos, ABS-CBN News

This pushed the NWRB to limit allocation for irrigation, giving priority to Metro Manila’s water supply.

The changing climate has also affected the lives of those residing in Angat watershed for years, according to Dumagat leader Rogelio Villarama. The inconvenience experienced by residents during dry seasons as water level drops becomes more challenging during the rainy season as the river swells. These make it more difficult for the Dumagat to sustainably earn a living from fishing and harvesting forest products.

Water level in the dam does recover during rainy season. In fact, in 2011, the National Power Corporation struggled to keep the water level beyond its spilling level of 212 masl to avoid flooding downstream communities in Bulacan. However, climate models released by PAGASA last April 24 forecast below-normal and near-normal levels by Aug. to Oct. 2019.

The water shortage in Manila may have caused inconvenience to many, but Angat watershed residents would like to appeal for city dwellers to make a conscious effort to conserve water as the weak El Niño persists. This would hopefully ensure that water in the reservoir would be enough for everyone.

Dumagats wait for their boat ride at the Angat dike as water level registers at 180.36 masl as of 6AM of April 27. When water level in the reservoir drops, access and mobility becomes a problem. The steep slopes of the reservoir make it difficult for fishermen to move around, forcing most residents to relocate. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Children cross a trench going to a temporary settlement for Dumagats relocating to lower parts of the Angat Watershed as water levels continue to drop on April 27, 2019. Residents are forced to relocate downstream where the water level is more manageable. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

A family crosses the dried up part of the Matulud River as Angat Dam water level registers at 179.97 on April 28, 2019. Parts of Matulid River, Angat’s largest tributary, had dried up. In some areas, only small motorized boats which can carry 3 men would be able to reach the almost dried up part of the river. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Boatman Manuel San Jose pushes his boat as he navigates along the Matulid River in this photo taken on April 28, 2019. Residents at times had to cross muddy rivers as the water level drops at the Angat Watershed area. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Riverbeds are exposed as Angat Water level registers at 179.97 masl breaching its critical level of 180 masl on April 28, 2019. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Residents relocating from Maputi River refuel at a floating store inside the Angat Watershed area on April 28, 2019. Some Dumagats opted to relocate downstream as Angat Dam water levels drop. The changing climate has significantly affected the lives of those residing in Angat watershed for years. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Makeshift houses are erected along the river banks as the water level at the Matulid River, one of Angat Dam’s major tributaries, drops in this photo taken on April 28, 2019. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

A man navigates along shallow waters of the Matulid River, one of the major tributaries of the Angat Reservoir on April 28, 2019. The below normal rainfall has caused water level in the Angat watershed to drop exposing river beds of its largest tributary. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

A family works on rattan strands outside their makeshift house on an exposed riverbed in this photo taken on April 27, 2019. Rattan harvesting is one of the alternative livelihoods in the area. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

A family works on rattan strands being prepared for transport in this photo taken on April 27, 2019. Rattan harvesting is one of the livelihoods in the area. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Children stay inside their makeshift houses as they wait for their parents harvesting bamboo and rattan at the Angat Watershed area on April 27, 2019. Dumagat residents have to look for alternative source of livelihood to support their basic needs. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

A family crosses the dried up part of the Matulud River as Angat Dam water level registers at 179.97 on April 28, 2019. Residents from upstream communities are forced to relocate downstream or traverse steep slopes for hours to areas where they could eventually cast their nets to catch wild tilapia. Others opt to build makeshift houses along the banks of the reservoir for convenience and safety. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Children play at the dried up part of the Matulud River as Angat Dam water level registers at 179.97 on April 28, 2019. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Dumagats set up a temporary settlement on the exposed riverbed of the Matulid River in this photos taken on April 28, 2019. The inconvenience experienced during dry seasons when water level drops is similarly experienced during the rainy season as the river swells. Making it more difficult Dumagat residents to sustainably earn a living from fishing and harvesting forest products. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

A dead fish lies on the ground at a temporary settlement of Dumagats, at an exposed riverbed of Matulid River on April 28, 2019. Dumagats take advantage of the good weather to harvest bamboos and rattan to earn. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

A rainbow appears over Angat Dam as waters breach the critical level of 179.97 masl on Sunday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News