By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor
MANILA WATER Co., Inc. is counting on a new water source in Cardona, Rizal plus stop-gap measures such as deep wells and a cross-border flow agreement with the other water concessionaire to help ease the water shortage being felt within its east zone concession.
“At least throughout summer, we will have below-normal conditions. After summer, we will continue trying to develop new sources. We will probably have to update you again towards the latter part of summer,” Geodino V. Carpio, Manila Water chief operating officer, said in a press conference at its head office in Quezon City on Tuesday.
He said Manila Water sought to clarify the “misinformation and contradicting opinions” on the water shortage afflicting Metro Manila’s east zone, but not the west zone under Maynilad Water Services, Inc.
“It’s not about inability to manage El Niño. It’s simply about demand outpacing the constant supply,” he said. “El Niño exacerbates the situation.”
Mr. Carpio said the Cardona intake facility in Laguna Lake is expected to add 31 million liters per day (MLD) within the month before reaching 50 MLD by month’s end and hitting its full capacity of 100 MLD by August.
Deep wells will add about 30 MLD more, while discussions are in place with Maynilad for a cross-border flow of 32 MLD to help ease the shortage.
Mr. Carpio clarified that although Angat Dam continues to deliver the usual 46 cubic meters per second (CMS), which translates to 4,000 MLD, only 1,600 MLD is allocated to Manila Water and flows to La Mesa Dam, which the company counts as among its source of reserve water.
The water then flows to the Balara treatment plant before distribution to households. Along the way, some water is lost, although the company had been able to trim this non-revenue water down to 10-12%.
The water supply, however, has lagged behind the 1,740 MLD required by water users — a customer count that continues to increase after exceeding the allocated amount in 2016.
“I appeal for patience,” Mr. Carpio said as he called for consumers to continue conserving water. “As the economic development of a city accelerates, in many ways also the consumption ng bawat tao (of every individual).”
Mr. Carpio said the shortage may have been worsened when customers hoarded water after the company’s advisory on a possible outage in certain areas.
“We need to constrain demand, so we have to reduce pressure,” he said about the company’s plan to refill the reservoirs.
Meanwhile, Randolph T. Estrellado, Maynilad chief operating officer, confirmed Mr. Carpio’s statement that their companies are discussing a cross-border deal on water flow.
He said cross-border sales are included in the concession agreement “so terms are not the issue.”
“Issue is more [on] timing as bulk of the available water will come from the completion of our [second] Putatan treatment plant in Laguna Lake in April… Other cross-border locations will also involve some pipelaying as these have been abandoned in the past,” Mr. Estrellado said.
Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System (MWSS) maintained its call for everyone to save water and help ease the water shortage as El Niño has varying impacts such as delayed onset of rainy season.
Based on figures from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), La Mesa Dam’s water level as of 6 a.m. on Tuesday was at 68.85 meters, down from its normal level of 80.15 meters.
The MWSS previously said that the onset of the dry season and rising customer demand does not mean that a water shortage looms for residents of Metro Manila and nearby provinces unless there is disregard for water conservation before the rainy season.
Separately, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol placed the damage so far brought about by El Niño on palay was around P377.85 million, and on corn at P86 million. He said these crops are heavily vulnerable to dry spell or drought.
“According to PAGASA in their latest bulletin the effects of El Niño will wane in the southern Mindanao area and northern Luzon area by the end of April towards May. In other parts of the country, especially the western part, El Niño will continue until the first two weeks of December,” he said. — with report from Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio