Longer waterless hours loom

07/19/2010 - West Zone water concessionaire Maynilad virtually put the water supply situation in Metro Manila and Cavite in the hands of nature after admitting that the agency can only enforce mitigating measures to counter the ill effects of the low water level at Angat Dam which fell to an all-time low of 157.56 meters last Sunday.

In a press conference, Herbert Consunji, Maynilad’s chief operating officer and officer-in-charge (OIC), acknowledged the current water crisis, saying the company do not foresee any improvement in their service unless there is an increase of water allocation and rise in the water level at Angat Dam in the coming months.

With the absence of enough rainfall that was expected beginning in the usually rainy months of June, Consunji asked the public to brace themselves for more days of long waterless hours if the rains do not fall on the concessionaire’s desired locations.

While Maynilad is now leaving the fate of the water problem to God, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje said there is no water crisis in Metro Manila as the situation remains “manageable.”

“We cannot declare a water crisis because the situation is manageable. Water shortage is only experienced by Maynilad, whereas Manila Water has adequate water supply,” Paje said.

Earlier, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA) predicted that rains enough to raise the water level of Angat Dam may come only on the last week of August or September this year.

Consunji said that typhoon “Caloy,’’ which hit the province of Aurora and nearby areas, virtually had no effect in locations serviced by Maynilad as it only raised the water level at Angat Dam by merely 0.7 centimeters or 157.63 centimeters.

He added that the current water level at Angat Dam which is lower than the previous lowest water level of 173 meters recorded in 1992 is way below the critical mark of 180 meters.

The scheduled water supply interruptions from July 16 to 23 in the severely affected barangays under Maynilad may either be extended or not, depending on the rainfall and water level at Angat Dam as the scheduling for such disturbances are done on a situation basis.

Given the 30 percent reduction equivalent to 720 million liters of water daily of the raw water supply from Angat Dam, Consunji said Maynilad is forced to enforce rotating water schedules in the West Zone.

Despite the bleak water supply prospect in the West Zone of Metro Manila and Cavite, Consunji said that the firm will make representations with concerned groups to increase the company’s water supply.

He also appealed to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the local government units to allow the water concessionaire to repair leaking pipes even without the permits to enable the agency to decrease its water wastage.

Paje also instructed the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) to work with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in crafting specific solutions to address Maynilad’s shortage in water supply.

“I have instructed (the DENR and NWRB) to immediately convene a meeting to address the concern on Maynilad’s lack of water supply. NWRB Executive Director Vicente Paragas together with Undersecretary (for Policy and Planning) Demetrio Ignacio will lead the crafting of specific solutions on how to address Maynilad’s problem,” Paje told the Manila Bulletin.

Paje said he is expecting Ignacio and Paragas to present the solutions during the DENR Executive Committee meeting scheduled on Monday.

“The NWRB is already discussing options with Maynilad on how to augment its water supply. We are already addressing the recognized problem in Maynilad’s areas,” Paje said.

Maynilad earlier assured its customers that the water firm is continuously looking for ways to mitigate the effects of the water supply reduction.

Among the measures include hiring of additional private water tankers to provide free water supply; sourcing of additional water supply from the Manila Water; and implementation of rotating water supply schedules in the central and northern part of Maynilad's concession area.

NWRB chief water resources development officer Engr. Jorge Estioko said the current water allocation of 32 cubic meters per second (cms) shared by Maynilad and Manila Water, which was originally split 60-40 in favor of Maynilad, was adjusted to 64-36 to help augment Maynilad's water supply.

“Manila Water has some water savings from La Mesa Dam, which can be tapped by Maynilad. Instead of sourcing water from Angat Dam, Maynilad can get the four percent additional water allocated to them from La Mesa Dam,” Estioko pointed out.

Meanwhile, Consunji asked that the authority to release water from Angat Dam be given to the MWSS as he questioned why the NWRB opted to discharge water equivalent to two months of Maynilad’s water supply requirement several weeks after storm “Ondoy’’ lashed the country last year.
..(Manila Bulletin)

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