As summer approaches, aside from feverish temperatures, one of the things that make us lose our cool is a water service interruption. In the first half of 2019, we've experienced a water crisis that affected the whole Metro Manila and almost all parts of the country.
Since the crisis has affected everyone, I remember even water refilling stations packed with consumers hoping to fill their water gallons lined up like waiting for a blockbuster movie. It was an unforgettable experience for many that the water concessionaires like Maynilad and Manila Water were flooded with complaints from their consumers.
For Maynilad, it was a challenge to maintain 24/7 supply for all of its consumers as the water level in Angat Dam plunged to below-critical levels. It is from this dam that 91% of Maynilad's raw water supply comes from, and the remaining 9% comes from Laguna Lake. The below-critical water level in Angat Dam compelled the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) to reduce raw water allocation for the Metro Manila water concessionaires, including Maynilad—reason why we experienced daily service interruptions.Just recently, I had the opportunity to visit Angat Dam, to learn more about what caused the water crisis and how they are preparing this year for it.
The Angat Dam is a multipurpose dam located in Norzagaray, Bulacan. Managed by Angat Hydropower Corporation (AHC), it is used for power generation, for irrigation through the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) and for domestic water supply through the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).
The water supply that is provided to the two Metro Manila water concessionaires, including Maynilad, is mainly coming from Angat Dam. The raw water from the dam flows downward to the much smaller Ipo Dam and, eventually, to the Novaliches Portal where the water is divided between the two private water concessionaires of the MWSS.Unfortunately, the water elevation in Angat Dam is still not at ideal levels, so the NWRB kept raw water allocation for us consumers reduced. This is to ensure that we will have enough raw water supply during the summer months.
But after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, the NWRB decided to increase the raw water allocation for the water concessionaires to 46 cubic meters per second (cms) from the previous 42 cms. As a result, Maynilad was able to suspend the daily water service interruptions, or at least limit it to off-peak hours (10 p.m. to 4 a.m.) in some areas.
But this doesn’t mean that we are off the hook, because the truth is the raw water supply is still limited and we don’t expect heavy rains yet to replenish the water in Angat Dam.
Thus, even if we no longer experience daily water service interruptions now, we must still use water efficiently and prioritize its use for activities critical to maintaining the family’s health and sanitation.
Meantime, Maynilad is continuing to implement several mitigating measures to generate additional raw water supply, while we are still waiting for the government’s long-term solution to the water shortage, which is the development of a new dam similar in scale as the Angat dam. The government, through MWSS, has lined up several prospective sources and is working to fast -track their development to ensure long-term water security and reliability for water consumers in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
The following are Maynilad’s mitigating measures to help ease the impact of reduced raw water allocations from Angat Dam:
◾ Optimizing its Putatan Water Treatment Plant 1, which has been getting raw water from Laguna Lake since 2010.
◾ Commissioning of PWTP 2, which was newly built and now also draws raw water from Laguna Lake to add to the supply from Angat Dam.
◾ Reactivating deep wells
◾ Sustaining reduction of water losses
◾ Purchasing modular treatment plants that will tap rivers in Cavite
◾ Deploying mobile water tankers and stationary water tanks
◾ Conducting cloud-seeding operations
Remember that we are all part of the solution. We must be responsible in using water in our homes.
Every drop counts. Imagine if every Filipino household can conserve water, we can surely help in lessening the water crisis in our country.