NWRB chief admits gov’t slow to find alternatives to Angat Dam

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 26) — The head of the water resource regulator admitted that the government has been slow to find alternatives to Angat Dam — the main water source for Metro Manila and portions of nearby provinces — which may soon breach its lowest water level in nine years.

“I think yes, we can say [we have been slow.] Because it has been years that it has been recognized [that we] need to develop alternative water resources,” National Water Resources Board Executive Director Sevillo David told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Wednesday.

David said they have granted the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage Systems (MWSS) permits to develop new water sources, but it has been hampered by slow infrastructure development.

The government, however, is keenly eyeing the Kaliwa Dam in Infanta, Quezon to be Metro Manila’s alternative water source. It is seen to provide 600 million liters of water per day (MLD) in its first phase, increasing to 1,800 MLD on its second phase.

But the dam construction is facing stiff opposition because it is being funded by a supposedly “onerous” Chinese loan. It is also reported to displace indigenous people and may harm the environment.

READ: NPA vows to launch attacks to stop Kaliwa Dam project

Aside from the Kaliwa Dam, David said they are also eyeing to use rivers in provinces near Metro Manila, deep wells and the Laguna Lake as alternative water sources.

“I think this time, the government is determined to start the development of those water resources,” he said.

Apart from the construction of new dams, lawmakers are also eyeing to create a Department of Water to consolidate more than two dozen government agencies overseeing the country’s water supply, a proposal backed by David.

Nine-year low

Angat Dam supplies water to 96 to 97 percent of Metro Manila, David said. This is on top of it being used as a water source for some Cavite and Bulacan residents, and for irrigation in Bulacan farms.

The dam’s water level has progressively gone down from a high of 214 meters at the start of the year to 158.7 as of Wednesday, below the critical mark of 160 meters.

The continued decrease in Angat Dam’s water level has pushed the NWRB to decrease its water allocation, prompting Metro Manila water concessionaires to reduce water pressure and even enforce water interruptions in the metropolis.

David projects that the dam’s water level would go down further within the week, hitting a nine-year low, with the state weather bureau saying that there is still not enough rain to replenish the reservoir.

Mayroon po tayong na-observe na pag-ulan doon pero light lang, hindi po sapat na umangat ang water level ng Angat,” Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration hydrologist Elmer Caringal told The Source.

[Translation: We only observed light rains there. It's not enough to raise the water level of Angat.]

The state weather bureau expects that the water level in Angat would only return to normal in August or September.