Water crisis in Manila may worsen
Tue, Jul 20, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Water supply in Metro Manila may worsen and could leave half of Maynilad Water Services Inc.'s customers with only six hours of service daily should the coming rains fail to increase the water level at Angat Dam in Bulacan province, company officials said.

Large swaths of Maynilad's concession area in the metropolis are already experiencing water rationing or rotating supply interruptions since July 16.

Manila Water Co., the other concessionaire in the metropolis, said some areas in the East Zone, although getting regular service, were experiencing reduced pressure particularly in the elevated areas of Marikina, Pasig, San Mateo, Rodriguez and the farther points of the concession like Taguig City.

But President Benigno Aquino III Monday said there was no water crisis yet.

'The DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways), the DoTC (Department of Transportation and Communications), and DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), have not yet afforded me information that there is already a water crisis,' he told reporters.

The President said he was himself concerned about the status of Angat Dam, which remained relatively dry despite the recent onslaught of Typhoon 'Basyang' (international codename: Conson).

The dam supplies more than 90 percent of the domestic water supply of Metro Manila, home to some 12 million people.

Jeric Sevilla, head of Manila Water's corporate communications, said water availability and pressure would be significantly reduced in the succeeding days and weeks to conserve water at Angat until the rains could refill the dam.

The 'impact on our customers with the continuing supply reduction will be as bad as Maynilad if we don't practice responsible and wise usage of water now,' Sevilla said Monday night.

Manila Water operates and gets its supply from the La Mesa reservoir in Novaliches, Quezon City, which receives water from Angat. Maynilad gets its water directly from Angat, which also provides water for irrigation in Bulacan.

As of Sunday, 18 percent of Maynilad's customers, equivalent to 450,000 people, were already severely affected by the dam's low water level, said Herbert Consunji, chief operating officer of Maynilad.

These people have access to water supply for only up to six hours a day, Consunji said at a briefing Monday.

Water supply is available to 29 percent of Maynilad's customers for 7 to 12 hours and 53 percent are still enjoying a 13' to 24'hour service, he said.

Level continues to drop

Consunji said the water level at Angat continued to fall, and was already at 157.63 meters above sea level (masl) as of Monday morning, lower than the dam's lowest level of 158.15 masl in September 1998, an El Ni'o year.

Basyang did not significantly increase the level as it added only 20 centimeters of water to Angat. Typhoon 'Caloy' is expected to add only 7 cm.

Over the past few months, the water level at the dam had fallen below the critical level of 180 meters above sea level (masl).

At 120 masl, no water can be made available to Metro Manila.

Without heavy rains, Consunji said Maynilad expected the water level to fall to 147 masl by September.

This would result in half of Maynilad's customers (equivalent to 423,341 or more than 3.1 million people) getting only a six'hour water service should the company fail to implement mitigating measures.

So many leaks

Mr. Aquino said he was still awaiting the official briefing from agencies such as the DENR, DPWH and DoTC before a crisis could be declared.

He said he had been told that besides the lack of sufficient rainfall to replenish water in the dam, Angat had 'so many leaks.'

'One proposal was to allow private investors to come in for rehabilitation work, but this is still in the nascent stages,' he said. 'There are a lot of proposals to do so many things, which, if you think about it, are very fantastic.'

BOT scheme

In the case of the proposal to have a private company rehabilitate Angat Dam, Mr. Aquino said the government would make sure that the effort would be on a build'operate'transfer (BOT) scheme and without sovereign guarantee.

'Most of them are still being fleshed out,' he said. 'Last week, foreign and local investors were coming, saying they were willing to undertake all of these needs of our country.'

Maynilad plans to implement more aggressive mitigating measures to address the water shortage.

It has sought the help of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), the regulator, to increase the company's water allocation to as much as 75 percent from the present 60 percent. Currently, Manila Water gets 40 percent.

The 60 percent translates to an allocation of 2,400 million liters per day (mld). But this had been reduced to about 1,800 mld due to the critical water levels at Angat Dam.

With a 75'percent allocation, Consunji said this would allow Maynilad to retain 1,800'mld supply even as the water level receded to 147 masl.

He said Manila Water was already amenable to the idea.

Joint use of La Mesa

Maynilad is also seeking joint use of La Mesa Dam and government subsidies for privatization of the Angat hydroelectric power plant to avert any possible long'term water supply issues.

For now, Maynilad said it would continue to get additional water tankers (even outside of Metro Manila); tap public fire trucks to assist in its water tankering operations; temporarily draw additional treated water from the East Zone; install four more static water tanks; and beef up call center operations.

'Until our water allocation increases and water level in Angat Dam improves, we do not see our water service levels improving significantly,' Maynilad said.

Help from Manila Water

Based on meetings Monday with MWSS OIC Macra Cruz, Manila Water agreed to provide assistance to Maynilad by doing the following:

Offering tankering services for Maynilad as an immediate relief for the affected customers.

Supplying 36 million liters per day of treated water at the cross boundaries on Commonwealth and West avenues and Edsa (Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue), in San Juan, Aurora Boulevard and Sauyo Road.

Assisting (with Maynilad) the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Soils and Water Management for cloud seeding operations in Angat.

Manila Water said it was also affected by El Ni'o but efficiency gains as a result of its very low systems loss (from 63 percent to about 13 percent to date) had mitigated the impact of the dry spell.

West Zone

Maynilad Water Services Inc. serves over 7 million people in its concession area, which includes the cities of Manila (all but portions of San Andres and Sta. Ana), Quezon City (west of San Juan river, West Avenue, Edsa, Congressional Road, Mindanao Avenue, the northern part starting from the districts of Holy Spirit, and Batasan Hills),

Makati (west of South Super Highway), Caloocan, Valenzuela, Navotas, Malabon, Pasay, Para'aque, Las Pi'as and Muntinlupa'all in Metro Manila'and the municipalities of Bacoor, Imus, Kawit, Noveleta and Rosario in Cavite province.

East Zone

Manila Water Co. provides water and wastewater services to 5.6 million people in 23 cities and municipalities of eastern Metro Manila and Rizal province. Its service area includes Pasig, Mandaluyong, Marikina, Taguig, Pateros and parts of Manila and Quezon City.

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