No water crisis in 2024 despite El Niño, says MWSS

Contrary to the assessment by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) on Tuesday expressed confidence that the country’s water supply next year will be sufficient despite the threat of El Niño.

Saying it has prepared extensively for the looming dry spell, MWSS reported that it has surpassed its collection target at the Angat Reservoir with 214 meters of available water.

“Isang taon po natin itong pinaghahandaan. Nakapag-ipon po tayo at umabot pa ng above our target elevation na 212 meters, meaning magiging kampante tayo sa onset ng El Niño,” MWSS District Manager Engineer Patrick Dizon said in a report on 24 Oras.

(We have been preparing for this the whole year. We were able to collect water, which is already above our target elevation of 212 meters, meaning we are confident [of our supply] during the onset of El Niño.)

The DENR has warned of potential issues with the water supply should the public fail to adequately conserve water during the El Niño phenomenon.

Dizon said that although the water in Angat Dam may drop lower than the normal operating level of 180 meters during El Niño’s peak, the supply will be replenished during the rainy season in June based on forecasts by state weather bureau PAGASA.

However, PAGASA said rainfall predictions would depend on the actual length of the El Niño dry spell.

“Nakikita natin by June ay ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation)-neutral conditions na. Ibig sabihin po, papawala na ‘yung El Niño at sabi po natin, around April ‘yung possible peak ng epekto ng El Niño. Huwag lang po talaga magpo-prolong na ‘yung aasahan natin ‘yung onset ng rainy season tapos hindi siya darating, or dumating man ‘yung tag-ulan pero magkakaroon ng monsoon break [o paghinto sa pag-ulan],” said Ana Liza Solis, PAGASA spokesperson for El Niño.

(The ENSO-neutral conditions are expected by June next year. This means that El Niño will be waning by then. Its possible peak will be around April. Hopefully, it won’t be a prolonged El Niño that we will depend on the onset of the rainy season, or when the rainy season does come, there will be monsoon breaks [or pauses in rainfall events.])

Should the El Niño phenomenon extend, MWSS will implement additional measures to avoid a repeat of the 2019 water crisis.

“Sa ngayon po, meron na tayong augmentation measures na nagawa, [gaya ng pagtayo ng] additional water treatment plants, mga deep well, [at] mga reduction sa ating non-revenue water. Kaya na pong ma-sustain o mapunan ‘yung kabawasan ng allocation na nanggagaling sa Angat Dam,” Dizon said.

(We have implemented augmentation measures, like the creation of additional water treatment plants, deep wells, and the reduction of non-revenue. With these, the water allocation from Angat Dam can be sustained or replenished.)

For their part, water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water said their facilities are ready to provide requirements for additional water should the need arise.

Maynilad Water Supply Operations Head Engineer Ronald Padua said, “Last week, nag-inaugurate kami ng pangatlong planta namin sa Laguna Lake, itong Poblacion Water Treatment Plant kung saan ‘yung first 50 million liters per day ay available na ngayong month ng December, and magfu-full swing ito to 150 million liters per day by first quarter ng 2024.”

(Last week, Maynilad inaugurated its third plant at Laguna Lake, the Poblacion Water Treatment Plant. Its first 50 million liters of water per day output is already available this month of December. When operations are in full swing, 150 million liters per day will be available by the first quarter of 2024.)

Manila Water Corporate Communications Director Jeric Sevilla said, “We have also intensified ‘yung mga leak repair activities natin so that ‘yung ating non-revenue water o ‘yung system losses na tinatawag mananatili at 13% to 14%.”

(We have also intensified our leak repair activities so that our non-revenue water or system losses will stay at 13% to 14%.)

Also on Tuesday, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. issued an Executive Order reactivating the El Niño Task Force to address the imminent prolonged dry spell and prepare for droughts in the first half of 2024. — Jiselle Anne Casucian/ VDV, GMA Integrated News

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