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El Niño: Dry spell looms as Laguna Lake water recedes

Water in the Laguna Lake is likely to breach its critical low level in two months’ time, as experts predict a lingering dry spell this year.

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SANTA ROSA CITY — Water in the Laguna Lake is likely to breach its critical low level in two months’ time, as experts predict a lingering dry spell this year.

Engineer Emil Hernandez, resident hyrdrologist of the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), said the lake water is receding at a rate of .3 meters a month. While this, he said, is “normal” during the dry season, Hernandez said the absence of significant rainfall may result in adverse effects primarily on farm lands and water supply. “There are many possible effects,” Hernandez said.

This photo taken last March 9 shows the water in Laguna Lake at low level. (Photo by Joel Mataro)

The lake’s critical low level is 10.5 meters. As of March 11, the LLDA said the water elevation was already at 11.1 meters.

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The 90,000-hectare Laguna Lake, the country’s largest inland water body, is the lifeline of Metro Manila’s bangus and tilapia production.  Surrounded by parts of Metro Manila, Laguna, and Rizal, Laguna Lake also provides irrigation to several farmlands, particularly on the eastern side of the bay.

Marlon Tobias, provincial agriculturist of Laguna, said farmers from Calamba City and Santa Cruz town have begun to feel the brunt of the dry spell, especially those who rely on the lake for irrigation.

The La Mesa dam, which supplies most of the water to Metro Manila, has reportedly breached its 69-meter critical low level as of March 10. Metro Manila’s two major water concessionaires — Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services Inc. — partly draw water from the Laguna Lake, with a combined average of 450 million liters a day.

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Water from the lake is also pumped into the Caliraya Lake, a manmade reservoir, to power the hydroelectric plant in Kalayaan, Laguna.

Department of Agriculture regional director Arnel de Mesa said they are monitoring farmers mostly in Laguna and Quezon provinces, where about 75 percent of the region’s rice and other high-value crops come from.

De Mesa said the government is preparing to give aid and crop insurances to the affected farmers.

After the dry season, which is expected to last up to June, de Mesa said farmers should prepare for stronger typhoons, a common pattern during an El Niño year. (Laguna Now)

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