Earlier this week, the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) directed public attention to this vital imperative just as Metro Manilans braced themselves for possibly tougher restrictions arising from an apparent Omicron-driven upsurge.
The NWRB reported that as of midnight last Dec. 31, 2021, Angat Dam’s water level was at 202.8 meters or 9.2 meters below the normal high level of 212 meters.
Citing forecasts made by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA) on the prevalence of the La Niña phenomenon until March, the situation still bears watching, says the NWRB, considering that the first rains of the season would likely start in May. Based on the forecast rainfall in the Angat Dam watershed, it is possible that by mid-April, the dam may reach its minimum operating level of 180 meters.
Speaking for the Senate Committee on Public Services, Senator Grace Poe has called on the government to take steps to preempt a possible water shortage.
Meantime, the two water concessionaires for Metro Manila — Manila Water Company and Maynilad Water Company — are expected to make good on their commitments to provide and upgrade the needed infrastructure that would ensure adequacy of water supply after the renewal of their long-term concession contracts.
Manila Water expects to complete by June 2022 the P5.5 billion Novaliches-Balara Aqueduct 4 project that will improve the reliability and security of the raw water transmission system.
Maynilad Water’s current priority project is the P10-billion water treatment facility in Muntinlupa’s barangay Poblacion that would be the third such facility since it began tapping Laguna de Bay as a water source. This move aims to ease over-reliance on Angat Dam that is the only major water source for Metro Manila and the adjoining provinces.
Our government’s economic management and infrastructure development team cabinet clusters are well aware that the current water supply situation is vulnerable to disruption if the country experiences an El Niño phase characterized by severe drought.
Two major projects are currently on stream: the NEDA — approved P12 billion Kaliwa Dam project in Quezon province billed by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) as the New Centennial Water project; and the P20-billion Wawa Bulk Water Supply project in Rizal province of Enrique Razon’s Prime Metroline Infrastructure Holdings, Inc., a privately-funded joint venture deal approved by the MWSS.
Both the Kaliwa and the Wawa dam projects are included in the priority listing of government infrastructure projects. The Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) has been tasked to ensure that local permits and barangay clearances related to these projects are “applied, issued and obtained strictly in accordance with the prescribed processing time.” Meantime, communities and households must adopt water conservation measures, especially considering the current surge in COVID-19 cases brought about by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Frequent hand washing and sanitation are still part of the health and safety protocols — and these require adequacy of water supply.