By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor

METRO MANILA remains at risk of a water shortage next summer as Angat Dam remains the sole supply source, but local government units in the Philippine capital can help avert another crisis through water demand-side management.

This is the view of Ferdinand M. dela Cruz, former president and chief executive officer of Manila Water Co., Inc. (MWC), who expects the city’s mayors to come up with a common stand to encourage consumers to be more conscious of their water use.

“What I did about three months ago was to approach sila Chairman Danny (Danilo D.) Lim ng (of) MMDA (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority) kasi (because) we needed the mayors to start talking about the demand side. Some mayors did during the crisis,” he said in an interview.

A water crisis hit Manila Water early this year when Angat Dam’s water flow of 46 cubic meters per second, translating to 4,000 million liters per day (MLD) or 1,600 MLD for the company, failed to keep up with a demand of about 1,740 MLD.

The situation was worsened by the El Niño phenomenon, which did not allow the dam to maintain its ideal elevation. A new water source in Cardona, Rizal was also not completed on time.

In April, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, which regulates Metro Manila’s east zone water concessionaire, imposed a penalty on Manila Water amounting to P1.134 billion.

Mr. Dela Cruz, who resigned in August from Manila Water, said the suggestion of a water demand-side management was warmly received by MMDA’s Mr. Lim. He said what the company was advocating was more encouragement from local government units (LGUs) on the prudent use of water.

“And if there could be local ordinances,” he said, pointing to possible regulation on the use of water for watering plants and washing vehicles.

“So we’re challenging the LGUs, ano ang pwede nating gawin (what can we do)? It could be an ordinance to limit [the use of water]. We’re giving them ideas but of course sila dapat magtulak noon (they should be the one to push it),” he said.

The ideas include water recycling and water harvesting when it rains, but not “imposing,” Mr. Dela Cruz said, adding that the discussions among LGUs are easier now after their constituents went through a water crisis.

He said on the supply side, Manila Water is prepared and has a roadmap on future water sources, including Wawa Dam and Laguna Lake.

By next summer, Mr. Dela Cruz said the situation may have improved but Kaliwa Dam, which is expected to be Metro Manila’s medium-term water source with 600 MLD, will still not be completed.

“The issue is what will be the level of Angat during summer,” Mr. Dela Cruz said. “That is the big question mark. You cannot replace 1,600 MLD.”

“We have to hit [an elevation of] around 212 to 214 [meters] by yearend,” he said, referring to a comfortable level before the summer months. “Depende pa rin ’yan (That still depends on) how much they give irrigation.”