MM faces water crisis, Angat dam level dips

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A WATER supply crisis looms in Metro Manila and neighboring areas as rains brought about by the southwest monsoon or “habagat” in the last couple of weeks failed to increase the water level of Angat dam.

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Rep. Gavini Pancho of Bulacan’s 2nd District said over the weekend that in spite of the rains, the water level of Angat dam continues to decline. Water elevation at the reservoir has been expected to go over the 200-meter mark has not0 happened, he added.

The lawmaker said 97 percent of Metro Manila’s water supply comes from Angat Dam and the looming water crisis is expected to hit neighboring areas if supply continues to dwindle in the coming days.

Given the situation, water concessionaires will have to partake of 10 percent of the already limited allocation of irrigation water intended for farmers in Bulacan and Pampanga, he added.

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) was reported to be eyeing construction of new dams to address the looming water crisis and beef up the old Angat dam.

Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvardo had foreseen the problem almost a decade ago and called attention to it during a privilege speech before the Sanguniang Panglalawigan in September 2009 when he was vice governor.

In his speech, Alvarado said that MWSS was pushing for building the Laiban dam to provide a new source of water for Metro Manila.

He recalled that the MWSS issued a statement stressing that “its (Angat dam) age and the fact that it is in the vicinity of the West Valley Fault put our water source at great risk. A new water reservoir, therefore, will help mitigate the loss of water supply from the other source in case of a major disaster and natural calamities.”

The agency cited several other urgent reasons for pursuing the Laiban dam project, among them: At that time Angat dam – which lifespan is only 30 years —was already 41 years old; the reservoir is heavily silted, an indication of rampant illegal logging, quarrying and mining near and within its watershed area; and the presence of a crack inside the dam pen-stock.

The MWSS, Alvardo said, insisted that the solution to the problem is the Laiban dam project but this was shelved by former president Corazon Aquino’s administration in December 1989 to give priority to more practical projects like the Angat Water Supply Optimizing Project and the Umiray-Angat Transbasin Project.

Alvarado, when he was vice governor, was not keen on the MWSS proposal saying then that building new dams is not the answer but the rehabilitation and strengthening of the more than four-decade-old Angat dam is the better recourse.

He said the new operator of the dam – Angat Hydro Corp. – is undertaking the repair and rehabilitation of the aging Angat Dam.

The governor added that while he does not want to present a grim scenario, authorities should not overlook the massive devastation that could result if a magnitude 7.2 earthquake or the so called “Big One” jolts the West Valley Fault line and breaks Angat dam.

“The horror of it is unimaginable. The dam is located in the steepest slope of the mountain. Once it breaks, huge boulders, illegally cut logs and debris will cascade downstream and will wipe out everything in its path towards Manila Bay,” he said.

Alvarado added that strengthening Angat dam is an urgent task but ultimately it is prayers and the love and mercy of God that can prevent this horrible disaster from happening.

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