Drought  stresses need to save rainwater

Published March 13, 2019, 12:11 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

E CARTOON MAR 13, 2019It was just a few short weeks ago when  we had to face the problem of floods and landslides because  of a series of storms and low-pressure areas coming from the Pacific, then dumping rains as they swept on towards   Asia.

Rains come regularly to our islands,  following  an  annual  schedule  dictated by the world’s weather. Our “habagat” winds  come  around  May,  bringing in  waters  that had evaporated  from the  hot equatorial seas southwest of us. This begins our rainy season,  when  our farmers start planting their fields.

 July and August are the hot-season  months.  Then  around  October, the  “amihan” starts flowing in from the cold north, bringing in the season we associate with  Christmas  in  December and January.  March and April mark the start of the hot  season, which lasts up to May when the rainy season begins..

Apart  from this schedule of the annual “habagat” and  “amihan,” we have  the system of storms  and low-pressure areas arising  from the central Pacific, then sweeping westward towards the Asian  mainland. They carry water that had evaporated from the hot Pacific. Wherever they hit land, the air rises and cools and  dumps its load of water.

The  Philippines stands right on the  westward path of these storms or slightly north  of  it. When a storm  nears  us, at any time of the year,  we have rains that often cause landslides. We had these storm  rains  as  late as a few weeks ago when we should have been in the middle of our  summer season. The rainfall was such that Rep. LRay Villafuerte of Camarines Sur was moved  to file a blll to save  the rainwater that was just causing floods and landslides, before flowing out to sea.

In  his bill, the congressman said developers of projects in Metro Manila and other major cities should set up rainwater  retention facilities as part of their projects. In this way, we save the rainwater which is really a major  natural resource.

The hot  season has now begun in our islands. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical  Services Administration   (PAGASA)  has  published a map of the Philippines, showing  the entire Northern  and Central Luzon   and many provinces in Western Visayas  and Western Mindanao as in danger of suffering  from  drought  in the coming months.

The water level at La Mesa Dam, which supplies the water for Metro Manila, has fallen below the 69-meter critical level. The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has begun urging the public  to conserve water. The usual summer weather is being enhanced this year by the El Nino phenomenon , when heat develops in the Pacific then spreads  all around.

With or without El Nino, we really should  save the rainwater that we receive in abundance during  the rainy season.  We already save a great deal of it in several  dams, but we need to build more of them, along  with  smaller  rainwater retention facilities.

Our  days  are  getting hotter and longer, but we have the natural   resources – rainwater – to meet this problem. We just have to save it and use it.