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DAM ESSENTIALS (Part 1): UNDERSTANDING THE WATER TREATMENT PROCESS AND SOLVING THE WATER SHORTAGE

We went DAM hopping to Angat and Ipo Dams, then visited Maynilad’s La Mesa Water Treatment Plant 2 (LMWTP2), to learn about our water sources and treatment plants and answer the most important question of all– Bakit walang tubig!

Growing up in the 90s, I remember spending most of our afternoons outside, playing basketball, patintero, syato and all sorts of other street games. Not because we wanted to, but most of the time, because we had no choice.

We couldn’t do anything inside the house because there was no electricity most of the time, which made those looong summer days even hotter.  And unless you wanted to develop your arm muscles “kapapaypay” for hours, we had no choice but to go outside and delight in that warm humid breeze. Back then rechargeable appliances and generators were very expensive and usb powered devices still didn’t exist.

IN THE 90’S DINNER BY CANDLELIGHT WASNT A CHOICE–
IT WAS THE NORM BECAUSE OF THE BROWNOUTS
photo credit: PANAY NEWS

At the height of the power crisis in 1990s, we were experiencing around eight to ten hours of rotating brown outs—DAILY.  And we were even lucky, because those in Mindanao had 10 to 12-hour power outages.

Eventually, we got used to the brownouts, but what made our childhood even more traumatic was that after the power crisis, we also had to endure water shortages and the government would sometimes even give us a combo, a double whammy—NO ELECTRICITY + NO WATER (+ no advisory.)

No wonder our generation became so resilient.

And kids these days say they’d die without WIFI.


SAME TIME, LAST YEAR (ALMOST)

So the water crisis that happened last year felt a lot like déjà vu for us.

With the ever-growing population of Metro Manila relying on the same water resource, and El Nino making things worse, the concessionaries had no choice but to ration the water, but even then some areas still went without water service for several days (back in May 2019 affecting Manila Water customers in Mandaluyong).

photo SOURCE :https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/03/15/19/manila-waters-mistakes-led-to-water-crisis-mwss

At the height of the water outage, hundreds of pail-carrying customers lined up in front of pumps and fire hydrants while others even chased firetrucks. Stores ran out of plastic containers while some restaurants stopped serving drinks and malls had to shut some of their toilets to save water. Public hospitals in affected areas even had to turn away patients with less urgent cases and those who lived in condos were getting water from the swimming pools. Maynilad shared its supply with Manila Water after the latter’s La Mesa Dam became severely depleted. But once the water level in Angat Dam went below critical, even Maynilad had to implement rotational service interruptions.

It was the most severe water shortage in nearly a decade caused by infrastructure delays, rising demand of a growing population, shrinking supply at dams and climate change. Quite ironic for an archipelagic country surrounded by water.

Last Friday, together with a group of bloggers, Maynilad took us on a tour of the Angat and Ipo Dams, and their water treatment facilities to better understand the situation during the dry months and what we can expect this year.

The good news? There’s no El Nino this year. The Bad News? The water rationing will continue until the rainy season. And unless we find another major water source or build a new dam, we can expect the rationing to be a yearly summer thing.

ANGAT AND THE ANCIENT MANILA WATERWAYS

Did you know that the water system of Metro Manila has the distinction of being the oldest in Asia? It was constructed in 1878 with funds donated by Francisco Carriedo y Peredo, a Spanish philanthropist.

The Angat Dam on the other hand is much younger–just over half a century old. It was constructed in the 1960’s and commissioned in 1968.

Our first stop was the Angat Rainforest and Eco Park (AREP VIEW) where we had an overlooking view of the Angat River and Ipo Dam. According to Engr. Rodel Tumandao, Maynilad Water Source Head, the area used to be open to the public 

Angat River, he said, is the main source of domestic water for Metro Manila. Maynilad sources about 91 percent of the water from this dam located in Norzagaray Bulacan, 40 km to the Northeast of Manila.

The remaining 9% comes from Laguna Lake. Maynilad is the first water concessionaire to tap Laguna Lake as an alternative source of raw water supply for Metro Manila. The Angat Dam is a multi-purpose dam. Managed by the Angat Hydropower Corporation (AHC), it is used for power generation, for irrigation through the National Irrigation Authority (NIA), and for domestic water supply through the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

Angat Dam is classified as a multi-purpose dam because it generates electrical power, provides water for irrigation, serves as a reservoir for flood control, and supplies water to Metro Manila and nearby areas. He also adds that Angat River has “Class A” water meaning it is the best and easiest type of water to treat because it has the least impurities.

From Angat Dam, raw water flows downward to the much-smaller Ipo Dam and, eventually, to the Novaliches Portal where the water is divided between the two private water concessionaires of the MWSS–i.e., Manila Water for the East Zone concession, and Maynilad for the West Zone concession. Maynilad gets 60% share because of its bigger customer base. While the two concessionaires share the raw water supply coming from Angat and Ipo Dams, only Manila Water gets raw water from La Mesa Dam.

In West Manila, Maynilad treats up to 2.4 million cubic meters per day in its LMWTP 1 and 2. In East Manila, Manila Water treats up to 1.7 million cubic meters per day in its Balara treatment plant. Angat Dam supplies 4.1 million cubic meters per day of water for Metro Manila. (source Wikipedia)

The entire Angat Watershed area is about 62,000 hectares, while IPO watershed is at 6,600 hectares. The operating level of the Angat dam is between 180 meters to 212 meters, and when it exceeds 212, that is the time they do a preventive spill for flood control purposes.

Now the question I asked myself is why do they have to release the water during rainy season instead of keep it so we can use it during the dry season?

The Angat River

The answer is because the dam can only store a certain volume of water. Unfortunately, during El Nino or a dry season, water in the dam gets depleted fast.

The National Water Resources Board (NWRB) is the government agency responsible for determining the allocation of raw water supply from Angat Dam for MWSS and NIA. The normal allocation for MWSS is 48 cubic meters per second (cms). This supply is shared among residents of Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan.

Last June 2019, the NWRB reduced the raw water allocation for the MWSS because the water level in Angat Dam plunged to below-critical levels due to scant rainfall.

So while at present, the water level in Angat Dam is above its minimum operating level, the NWRB still decided to retain the reduced raw water allocation for MWSS (currently at 42 cms from the normal 48 cms). This is because the water level is still lower than ideal, and NWRB wants to ensure that there will still be enough water by the time the summer months arrive.

The reduced allocation forced the water concessionaires like Maynilad to implement daily rotational water service interruptions throughout their respective service areas to maximize the limited supply and ensure that all customers will have some water supply, even within a few hours daily.

From the Angat Dam water goes down to Ipo

Maynilad was able to temporarily suspend the rotational interruptions from July to September 2019 when the rains arrived. This is because rains filled up the Ipo Dam and kept its water elevation within the maintaining level of 101 meters, thus augmenting the supply shortfall from Angat Dam. However, once runoffs from the Ipo watershed dwindled, water level at lpo Dam plunged. This forced Maynilad to again re-implement the rotational interruptions by October 2019.

Historically, consumer demand for water increases during the summer months and with the scant rainfall over the Angat and Ipo Dams, NWRB might be forced to further reduce raw water allocation for the MWSS. Such reduction would mean longer daily rotational water service interruptions for customers of the concessionaires.

HOW DOES DAILY ROTATIONAL WATER SERVICE INTERRUPTIONS WORK?

From the viewdeck, we then headed down to get a closer look at Angat River and the Angat Dam, then to Ipo Dam where we had our lunch and saw the various equipment, which couldn’t be photographed for security reasons, before heading back to the Maynilad offices for a more detailed discussion on how rotational water service interruptions work. 

Engr. Ronald Padua, Water Supply Operations Head of Maynilad,

We then met with Engr. Ronald Padua, Water Supply Operations Head of Maynilad, who guided us through the entire process.

When Maynilad is given less than its usual raw water allocation, it is constrained to maximize the limited supply by rotating it to the different areas within its concession. This is to ensure that all customers will have an opportunity to store water, even within only a few hours daily.

The duration of service interruptions per area is dependent on the hydraulic configuration of the pipelines. This means that some areas will experience longer or shorter service interruptions owing to their location (i.e., areas that are low in elevation, are near Maynilad’s reservoirs and pumping stations, and are conduits to reach fringe areas will naturally have shorter service interruptions).  This explains why sometimes an area just a few streets away from you continue to have water, while you experience water disruption.

Certain factors cause the delay of supply resumption following a service interruption. These include the volume of withdrawal from the pipelines as customers start getting water, the topography of an area (low-lying areas feel the supply resumption earlier than those in highly elevated areas), and the actual raw water supply that enters Maynilad’s treatment plants for the day (lower volume received means less water for distribution).

Since simultaneous withdrawal of water from the pipelines affects water pressure, Maynilad strongly advises its customers to just store enough water that they will need for the duration of a service interruption. Drawing too much water after service resumption will not only prevent the supply from reaching highly elevated and fringe areas, it can also cause the hoarder’s water bill to spike.

Some customers may also experience slight water discoloration upon resumption of service. Discoloration is a natural consequence of service interruptions, as the returning flow of water tends to scrape the mineral deposits from the internal lining of pipes. Customers are advised to let the water flow out until the supply clears. lf discoloration persists, they are encouraged to report it to Maynilad for further investigation.

WHEN WILL THE DAILY WATER SERVICE INTERRUPTIONS END?

The implementation of daily rotational service interruptions will be in effect for as long as the raw water allocation given to Maynilad from Angat Dam is below its requirement. Per NWRB, reduced allocations will remain in effect until June 2020. Continuous monitoring of Angat and lpo Dams are being done to check if the water levels improve enough to raise the allocation.

What can customers do to help mitigate the impact of the reduced raw water allocation? According to NWRB, if every one of 15 million Filipinos saves four liters of water a day, we can collectively save 60 million liters per day. Such water savings can go a long way in ensuring that water levels in Angat Dam will recover enough for NWRB to increase allocation for the MWSS.

While Maynilad is doing its part in managing supply, customers can also help by using water responsibly (Tips on the Next post!)

DEVELOPING MORE WATER SOURCES

That is also why it’s crucial to develop other water sources or build a new dam, like the Kaliwa Dam in Quezon to ensure water supply reliability and sufficiency for its customers. Currently, MWSS is on top of this project.

Maynilad, on the other hand, is also looking at possible solutions to address the growing demand of its customers. 

Since 2010 Maynilad has begun to diversify its water sources by tapping into Laguna Lake, another large, but polluted lake. The water from Laguna Lake is being treated in Maynilad’s Putatan Water Treatment Plants, which are currently serving 1.2 million residents in the South of the metropolitan area.

To alleviate the impact of the reduced allocation from Angat Dam during summer 2020, Maynilad has also been implementing mitigating measures since last year–measures that would essentially add water supply for distribution to its 9.7 million customers despite the shortage from Angat and lpo Dams. These are:

Optimizing its Putatan Water Treatment Plant (PWTP1), the first facility to draw water from Laguna Lake since 2010, it produces 150 million liters per day (MLD) of potable water.

A historical marker at the Ipo Dam

Maynilad has also invested in a second treatment plant that draws more water from Laguna Lake. Inaugurated last Feb 2019, the initial output of this second plant was at 100 MLD as of April 2019 and this was increased by another 50 MLD as of October 2019.

Maynilad is also reactivating existing deep wells within its concession area using additional treatment technology to make the yield potable. This will add around 52MLD by April of this year.

Learned a lot from Engr. Ronald Padua, Water Supply Operations Head

As mentioned we have the oldest pipe networks in Asia and Maynilad was the one who inherited it. After pouring millions worth of investments, the company has already replaced over 2,500 kilometers of old pipes and repaired more than 360,000 pipe leaks since 2008. These efforts result in supply recovery for distribution to customers. Recent intensified water loss reduction initiatives will enable Maynilad to plow back around 83 MLD additional supply to the network by summer 2020, and another 11 MLD by Q3 of 2020.

Maynilad is exploring the deployment of modular water treatment plants that will extract raw water from Cavite rivers within the West Zone. This will yield around 13 MLD by April 2020, and another 14 MLD by July to August 2020.

Maynilad also acquired a total of 69 mobile water tankers and 32 Stationary Water Tanks, which are being deployed to different areas within its West Zone concession.

Lastly, Maynilad is currently working with MWSS, Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM), Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), and Philippine Air Force (PAF) on the guidelines and schedule of the cloud-seeding operations.

While Maynilad’s mitigating measures will help to ease the impact of the water shortage this summer of 2020, the ultimate solution is to develop an additional raw water source–one of the same scale as Angat Dam. As mentioned earlier, the government, through the MWSS, has lined up several prospective sources, and is working to fast-track their development to ensure Iong-term water security and reliability for water consumers in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.


IN THE NEXT PART WE WILL GIVE YOU SOME NOT TOO COMMON TIPS ON HOW TO SAVE WATER!

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