New plan to recycle stormwater for farm use backed

The Philippine President’s plan to collect, impound, and recycle Metro Manila’s stormwater for agricultural irrigation in surrounding provinces has drawn the support of a senior member of Congress.

“We are all for it. Assuming the government can establish new large stormwater reservoirs for farm irrigation, then all of Angat Dam’s water reserve may be freed up and devoted exclusively to supplying Metro Manila’s demand for potable water,” Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr said in a statement on Sunday.

“At present, besides supplying 90% of Metro Manila’s water requirement, Angat also provides water to irrigate some 28,000 hectares of farmland in Central Luzon,” Campos pointed out.

Campos’s remarks came as Angat’s water level continued to drop due to abnormally low rainfall amid a looming El Niño event.

At the time Campos expressed his support, on June 25, Angat’s water level fell to 184 meters, four meters above the dam’s 180-meter critically low water mark. At 6 a.m. on July 8, the water level was at 179.99 meters—breaching the critically low level.

In previous dry spells, Angat, which is in Norzagaray, Bulacan, had stopped releasing farm irrigation water to conserve water supply for Metro Manila.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr earlier said the government plans to tap the multibillion-peso annual budget for flood control projects to create large stormwater impounding areas for farm irrigation purposes.

Stormwater refers to excess groundwater from heavy rains, which causes flooding until they drain out into natural waterways such as rivers and lakes.

Campos had previously filed House Resolution No. 906, which pressed for a congressional inquiry into the so-called “unsuccessful implementation” of the Rainwater Collection and Springs Development Law of 1989.

The 34-year-old law requires the Department of Public Works and Highways to construct rainwater collectors in all barangays.

In a recent congressional hearing, Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) officials had warned of an approaching El Niño, which could persist until the first quarter of 2024.

When the Philippines last endured an El Niño event in 2019, vast parts of the country, including Metro Manila, reeled from a drought that caused widespread water shortages and farm losses, after dams and lakes that supply potable and irrigation water experienced a massive decline in rainfall. (Story courtesy of the Philippine House of Representatives; photo by Genaro Servin/Pexels)