CABANATUAN CITY – Due to the low water level at the Pantabangan Dam reservoir, the areas in Nueva Ecija that will be sustained by irrigation water during the dry season cropping have been reduced by about 30 percent.
As the irrigation water started flowing from the dam to the service canals starting last week, irrigation officials in the province said the dam has failed to reach its rule curve in order to service about 114,000 hectares targeted for the current “palagad” or dry season cropping.
“Only about 70 percent of the usual area can be irrigated this season,” said Engr. Wilfre-do Ramos, operations chief in District I of the Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation Systems (UPRIIS) with offices in the Science City of Muñoz.
He said that in his area of two cities and four towns, a total of 3,682 hectares were determined to be unserviceable by irrigation water from the dam this season. His area has a total of 18,601 hectares covering the cities of San Jose and Muñoz and the towns of Talavera, Quezon, Sto. Domingo and Licab.
“Ngayon lang po nangyari ito sa matagal na panahon. Dahil po ito sa mahinang tubig sa Pantabangan Dam (This was the only time it happened in a long while. It was because the water level at the dam was low),” Ramos said in an interview.
He said that in their previous meetings with the other officials of UPRIIS, they agreed that if the operation rule curve of 212 meters elevation at the Pantabangan Dam is not reached, the target service area of their system in the province will be reduced.
As of late, the water level at the Pantabangan Dam reservoir was only 204.50 meters, it was learned. In the irrigation water summit in the province called by Gov. Aurelio Umali last October, Engr. Reynaldo Puno, UPRIIS operations manager.
Said that based on their forecast only 0,842 hectares out of the irrigable area of 114,490 hectares in the province can be programmed for irrigation for this cropping season. It will affect 27,332 farmers, he said.
Provincial and irrigation officials in the province said the long dry spell had reduced the inflow of water in the Pantabangan Dam reservoir. Puno, in a power point presentation during the water summit, said that the other areas to experience reduced sustained irrigation service during the dry season cropping are the cities of Cabanatuan and Gapan, the towns of Aliaga, Cabiao, Gen. Natividad, Guimba, Jaen, Llanera, Lupao, San Leonardo, San Antonio, San Isidro, San Leonardo, Talugtog and Zaragoza.
Umali, who presided over the summit, urged the local chief executives and various agencies to help mitigate the effects of the El Niño phenomenon in the province. He earmarked a certain portion of his confidential funds to help improve the flow of water in the other irrigation systems in the province.
The last time El Niño hit the country was in 2009 and experts said the phenomenon happens every four to five years. Irrigation personnel said the reduced areas to be irrigated will mean reduced income for their system. They get their salaries from irrigation fees collection by their irrigation system.