Magat water level lowest in three years

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CAUAYAN CITY: The heavy downpour from Typhoon Glenda was not enough to increase the water level at the Magat Dam, which remained “very low,” according to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

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NIA officials said the water level of Magat Dam has reached its all-time low in three years or 160.46 meters.

Engineer Saturnino Tenedor of NIA said the dam’s water lever has dropped less than a meter above its minimum operational level to generate electricity.

“The dam’s water level on Wednesday was the lowest in three years or so,” said Tenedor, also the dam’s instrumentation and forecasting officer.

Magat Dam is located along the Ifugao-Isabela border and irrigates at least 80,000 hectares of farmlands. The dam has the capacity to generate some 380 megawatts of electricity for the Luzon grid.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said that the rains from Glenda did not help raise the water level at the Magat Dam substantially.

NIA officials said the 160-meters water level is the minimum operational level for the Magat Dam to continue generating power.

“Only a heavy downpour brought about by a typhoon directly affecting the Magat Dam and its watershed areas in the provinces of Isabela and Ifugao can restore the dam’s normal water level,” said Ramil Tuppil of the Pagasa station based in Echague, Isabela.

Earlier, the Magat River Integrated Irrigation System of the NIA resorted to rotational irrigation supply because of the diminishing water reserve at the Magat Dam reservoir.

Also, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has urged farmers to resort to planting root or drought-resistant crops like kamote (sweet potato), cassava and mungbean because of the scarcity of water supply from the dam.

Meanwhile, the dam’s power component has started operating at a reduced capacity because of the dam’s dwindling water reserves, according to the SN Aboitiz Power (SNAP).

To recall, SNAP officials said the Magat Dam’s latest power shutdown in March 2010 affected the entire Luzon grid when the dam’s water level dropped to 152.7 meters.

Also in July 1991, the three-decade-old dam that was once Asia’s biggest power and irrigation facility recorded its all-time low of 149 meters.

To prevent further depletion of water in Magat dam, cloud seeding was conducted by the NIA and SNAP with the help of the Philippine Air Force over the dam and its watersheds after it was suspended in April 27.

Cloud seeding was suspended after a privately-owned light plane crashed in a cornfield in Bagabag town in Nueva Vizcaya while conducting the said activity.

There were four passengers onboard killed which included three cloud seeding specialists of the Bureau of Soils and Water Management, which is attached to the DA.

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