Pantabangan Dam low water level reduces irrigated areas in N. Ecija

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    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.  

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