SINCE January 2023, the government has been preparing for the expected water supply shortage with the onset of El Niño this year to ensure Metro Manila would no longer suffer the nightmare wrought by the 2019 episode of the perennial water shortage every time the long drought season deprives Angat Dam of the much-needed water supply from rain.
Carlos Primo David, Undersecretary for Integrated Environmental Science at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), said every water service provider, including water districts, is required to submit its respective El Niño Intervention Plan.
“All of them have their problems. Some require water tanks, some need new deep wells and some even ask for power generators,” he said.
‘Sufficient’ supply from source
AS far as Metro Manila is concerned, however, the head of the Water Resource Management Office (WRMO) of the DENR is highly confident there will be “sufficient” water supply throughout the rest of the summer season.
“We’ve been closely coordinating with other water agencies. So far, with the water level at Angat reaching 214 meters above sea level, it is safe to say that it will last until the onset of the rainy season,” he told the BusinessMirror.
David said if worse comes to worst, if the long season of drought extends beyond what is forecasted by the country’s weather bureau, the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage System (MWSS) and its water concessionaires have put in place contingency plans to ensure Metro Manila residents will not experience waterless days.
David also expects the same with other water districts in various parts of the country, where El Niño is expected to be equally severe and punishing.
The WRMO has oversight functions over other water agencies like the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), MWSS (Corporate and Regulatory Offices), Local Water Utilities Administration’s network of local water districts; and the Laguna Lake Development Authority.
“[PER] the latest El Niño outlook, El Niño will persist around April. When it reaches the second quarter, it will exist but go to neutral conditions. In case there will be a water supply shortage, we need to anticipate,” says David.
He added that water in reservoirs must be adequate to ensure the sustainable operation of hydropower plants because if water fails to produce electricity, it will have a domino effect on the water supply.
“Some water utilities extract water from deep wells, and it needs electricity, that is why we need to be cautious,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
In case the entire water supply system depends on electricity, pumps as well as treatment plants may also be affected.
“We don’t want drought conditions to happen,” said David.
In Metro Manila, two water concessionaires are sharing water from Angat as approved by the NWRB.
Maynilad Water Services Inc. is getting 60 percent of the approved allocation, while Manila Water Corp. is getting a 40-percent share. The approved water allocation for Metro Manila is 46 cubic meters per second (CMS) or 4,000 million liters per day (MLD).
This is being reduced from time to time in case the water level at Angat falls below the normal operating level, which is 212 meters above sea level (masl), while the critical level for drinking water is 160 masl.
Angat Dam also supplies irrigation to 20,000 hectares of farmlands in Bulacan and 2,000 hectares in Candaba, Pampanga.
In the East Zone concession area with a 1,400-square-kilometer area covering 23 cities and municipalities in Metro Manila and Rizal, which includes Mandaluyong, Makati, Pasig, Pateros, San Juan, Taguig, Marikina, and parts of Quezon City, and Manila, Manila Water is on top of the situation.
To date, the company has a customer base of 7.6 million.
ASIDE from the water supplied by Angat Dam, where around 90 percent of the water requirement for Metro Manila and other nearby towns and cities in Bulacan and Rizal provinces is drawn, Manila Water gets its raw water from Laguna de Bay.
Through its Cardona Treatment Plant in Rizal, which can treat up to 110 million liters per day, it can supply clean and potable water to several towns in Rizal, according to Raymond Andrew C. Maymay, Manila Water’s corporate communications manager.
The company also taps other auxiliary sources, such as the Marikina River through the 15 to 20-MLD Marikina Water Portable Treatment Plant and the 20-MLD Wawa-Calawis Water Supply System in Antipolo.
At Laguna Lake, the East Bay Water Supply System Project Phase 1 is expected to contribute 50 MLD for the municipalities of Baras, Binangonan, Cardona, Jalajala and Morong in Rizal.
Early this month, Manila Water inaugurated the Novaliches-Balara Aqueduct 4 in Quezon City (NBAQ 4), which will convey 1,000 MLD from the La Mesa reservoir. This will allow for the rehabilitation of the three existing aqueducts, which may already be incurring raw water losses.
Meanwhile, a backwash recovery program in the two water treatment plants in Balara, Quezon City, is being implemented and is capable of treating 24.7 MLD. This is a 13-MLD increase from last year’s 11.6 MLD.
“Deep wells are also ready to provide additional sources when needed. A maximum of 100 MLD from deep wells can be drawn from more than 50 deep wells already rehabilitated and constructed at various sites within the concession area,” Maymay said.
“Aside from augmenting the water supply sources, we keep the non-revenue water (NRW) under manageable levels—one of the lowest in Asia and on par with developed countries,” he added.
Maynilad: We’re ready
MEANWHILE, Maynilad Water Services Inc. the water services provider for the West Zone of the Greater Metro Manila area and the largest water concessionaire in terms of customer base in the Philippines, is confident of meeting the increased demand of its customers come summer season.
Maynilad’s concession area covers a total of 540 square kilometers. It includes the cities of Manila (certain portions), Quezon City (certain portions), Makati (west of South Super Highway), Caloocan, Pasay, Parañaque, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa, Valenzuela, Navotas and Malabon, all in Metro Manila; the cities of Cavite, Bacoor and Imus, and the towns of Kawit, Noveleta and Rosario, all in Cavite Province.
As of the third quarter of 2023, Maynilad’s customer base has expanded to 1,530,295 billed service connections or about 10 million people.
Maynilad’s approved allocation from Angat Dam is 50 cubic meters per second for January. For now, such allocation is enough, the company said, since it still gets runoffs from the watersheds that keep the water elevation of Ipo Dam at a high level.
“This, in turn, ensures that adequate raw water volumes arrive at the Novaliches/La Mesa Portal and, eventually, enter our La Mesa Treatment Plants in Quezon City. Currently, Maynilad sources 90 percent of its raw water requirements from Angat Dam; the remaining 10 percent is sourced from Laguna Lake for the southern part of its concession,” Madelaine Zaide, head of Maynilad’s Media Relations, Corporate Communications, Corporate Affairs Division, said.
Maynilad draws water from Laguna de Bay, to augment its supply from Angat, which represents about 90 percent of its total water supply needs for its huge customer base.
Aside from this, Maynilad has been developing other alternative sources to augment the available supply and reduce reliance on Angat Dam.
Maynilad recently commissioned a new treatment plant in Poblacion, Muntinlupa, which is its third facility to draw water from Laguna Lake. It is currently producing an initial 50 MLD, though its total capacity will be 150 MLD once completely operational by the first half of this year.
Once all three facilities in the south are fully utilized, Maynilad’s mix of raw water sources would be 84 percent from Angat Dam, 15 percent from Laguna Lake, and 1 percent from other sources (i.e., deep wells, cross-border supply, Cavite rivers, and New Water).
In preparation for El Niño, which happens every year, Maynilad said it is developing alternative water sources and is facilitating water loss recovery through intensified leak repairs and pipe replacements.
Striking the balance
BOTH measures will essentially generate additional water supply for distribution to customers should allocations from Angat Dam be reduced.
Depending on how drastic the reduction will be, the additional supply will supplement the shortfall or, at the very least, mitigate its impact on service levels.
In case of a worst-case scenario, Zaide said the company will work with all Angat Dam stakeholders to strike a balance between the need to preserve the supply and the need to get the appropriate allocations for its concession area.
Meanwhile, Maynilad’s various supply augmentation projects, such as reactivating deep wells, commissioning modular treatment plants, recovering water loss, and tapping cross-border points, would be fully utilized to meet the water requirements of its customers despite any reduction in the allocations from Angat Dam.
“Assuming a worst-case scenario, we will manage pressure across the pipe network, make available our stationary water tanks, and deploy our mobile water tankers to deliver potable water to severely affected areas,” she said.