New water source

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    AS WE write this, the National Capital Region is again beset with the problem of lack of water, which the two big concessionaires – Maynilad and Manila Water – have tried to remedy by their rotating water service interruptions and direct deliveries of water to affected areas.

    Spokespersons for the two water service firms minced no words in saying that water rationing will continue as long as the water level at Angat Dam, which serves as Metro Manila’s main water source, remains below its critical level, which is 160 meters.

    Even the occasional rains in Luzon and one tropical depression after another have failed to increase the water level at Angat Dam, due mainly to the inability of surrounding mountains and watersheds to hold rain water for future use. Those who profited from unbridled deforestation now realize that the chickens have come home to roost.

    A Manila Water official said that Metro Manila’s long-running problem about water will persist for some time until the government (or the private sector) finds a new reliable water source.

    And so all eyes are now trained on the Kaliwa River in Infanta, Quezon. For more than 25 years now, the plan to construct the Kaliwa Dam has been with the government. After four Presidents and several teams of experts in four successive administrations, we may finally see the day when a new water source is put on stream for Metro Manila.

    This is because the Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR), through the Environment Management Bureau, issued an environment clearance certificate (ECC) to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to proceed with the construction of the P18.7 billion Kaliwa Dam project.

    The ECC was issued by EMB Director Metodio Turbella to the MWSS last Oct. 11, giving the new water source project the clearance to build and operate a gravity dam along Kaliwa River in Quezon and Rizal province.

    The MWSS and its contractor China Energy Engineering Corp. have still to contend with local opposition to the project, particularly from the indigenous people and the Catholic church in the areas affected. This opposition may yet give the water agency some problems because aside from the DENR go-signal, it still has to secure the necessary permits from other government agencies, particularly local government units.

    It looks like it’s a long way to go before Kaliwa Dam’s construction starts, but at least, the biggest hurdle had been cleared. The sparkling luster of flowing water can now be seen at the end of a long, empty water pipe.