At this point in time for the year 2019, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) had already announced the start of the rainy season. And while the southern parts of the Philippines have been repeatedly hit by downpours even well before the official beginning, up north in Luzon the story has been rather different. There the effects of the southeast monsoon or “Habagat” has yet to reprieve the area from summer’s El Niño, which had dramatically lowered the water levels of dams that provide water for urban centers like Metro Manila. Angat Dam for example, is on the verge of “critical level.”
ABS-CBN News reports that Angat Dam has only 1 or two days left before its water supply reaches critical level, which would necessitate cuts to water service for the areas in Luzon that it provides water to. By that we mean Central Luzon (Region III) and Metro Manila itself, the latter of which has already been in the grip of periodic water shortages. News of Angat Dam’s water level will only sour moods there further, for PAGASA weather forecaster Benison Estareja has recorded the reservoir at just 160.73 meter this morning of Thursday, June 20. For reference, critical level for Angat is at 160 meters.
Estareja adds that the water level of the dam could dip below 160 meters within one to two days from now, at which point the water supply allocation into Metro Manila for a start will be drastically reduced further. PAGASA estimates that the first big blow of the southwest monsoon in Luzon will not be until sometime this weekend. And even then, the National Water Resources Board opines that regular monsoon rains would barely be enough to recover the water level. It would probably need an actual typhoon in Luzon.
Whenever the El Niño phenomenon hits the Philippines, the water supply is the easiest victim. Over this past summer the NWRB has cut water distributed for agriculture, although thankfully rice farmers in Luzon have already started planting season, so food supplies would not be affected even noticeably. The real adverse effect was in water reserved for consumption. As over a million Metro Manila households can attest since El Niño intensified this March, lining up for hours to have water felt even worse than is normal for the nation’s capital. The current status of Angat Dam is therefore an important element.
With luck the monsoon rains will start to come down on Luzon before the water situation deteriorates any further. El Niño however is projected by PAGASA to continue, despite being reduced in magnitude, until August.
Image from Business World Online