WARNED that they would all suffer the consequences if they did not immediately restore the water supply to Metro Manila East Zone communities served by Manila Water, the officials concerned very quickly reopened the valves last week and the flow of water to the thousands of households in the zone resumed immediately.
President Duterte threatened to fire the officials of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and terminate its agreements with the two private companies handling the distribution of water in Metro Manila – Manila Water in the East Zone and Maynilad in the West Zone.
There was never really a water crisis, said presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, who blamed the whole thing on “mismanagement” by the MWSS. The President subsequently announced he would decide on April 15 if he will fire the MWSS officials after he receives their report on April 10.
Was it really simply just a case of official mismanagement – some officials just deciding to turn off the water supply because of an impending water shortage?
The water is back in the East Zone; the supply valve appears to have been reopened.
But last Sunday, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) – our weather bureau – disclosed that the water at Angat Dam, from which Metro Manila gets 97 percent of its water, is now approaching its critical level.
At 6 a.m., Angat’s water level was at 195.91 meters –16.09 meters below the normal high level of 212 meters. It is dropping by an average of 41 centimeters daily. It could dip below 180 meters before the rainy season begins in June.
This steady fall in Angat’s water level may have moved the MWSS officials to act – or overreact – last March – when they turned off the supply. They did it without warning, thus creating the emergency for which thousand of households were totally unprepared.
The steady fall in Angat’s water level is a fact. But PAGASA has simply issued a warning and an appeal to the people of Metro Manila to conserve water in their households.
The next months of April and May are especially critical. No rains are expected during this period which is our regular hot season. The situation is worsened this year by the El Niño, heat forming over the central Pacific Ocean and then spreading in all directions. PAGASA expects the rains to come only in June; we must, therefore, conserve what water we still have in Angat Dam.
There is indeed no emergency such as the one caused by the unannounced decision to cut the water supply to the East Zone of Metro Manila two weeks ago. But there may be one if we don’t start conserving what supply we still have.