Cabanatuan City—Top officials of the National Irrigation Administration are planning a cloud seeding operation to remedy the critical level of Pantabangan Dam and in the absence of monsoon rains to boost its water reserve.
As of Wednesday, the water level of Pantabangan Dam is at 177.55 meters above sea level (masl), way below the 189.36 (masl) during the same day in 2019, based on records from the NIA-Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation System (NIA-UPRIIS).
Engr. Rosalinda B. Bote, NIA-UPRIIS department chief, said NIA Administrator Ricardo Visaya recently approved their request to conduct cloud seeding over the dam reservoir and watershed area in Nueva Ecija province to mitigate a prolonged dry spell on agricultural areas and “water stress."
"But we are still closely monitoring the PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) and based on the forecast, there will be La Nina (from) August to October," Bote said.
She noted that recent occasional rains in the downstream areas were not experienced in the dam reservoir.
Bote stressed that most farmers in the 141,431 hectares programmed for irrigation for this rainy season have already planted their palay (rice) crops.
In a letter to Visaya, Bote said they have to irrigate 115,302 hectares up to November 7 this year. UPRIIS provides irrigation to farms in Nueva Ecija and portions of Pampanga, Bulacan and Tarlac.
The six division managers under UPPRIS -- Engr. Alvin Manuel of Div2, Engr. Jose Ariel G. Domingo of Div 3, Engr. Felix Teano Jr. of Div. 1, and Engr. Wilfredo Balaura of Div. 5 -- said they were scheduling the distribution of water in the canals of the respective divisions.
"Last year, because there was a two-week southwest monsoon in July, the water level in Pantabangan rose rapidly, unlike now, and what happened in 2015 repeated wherein the (water) elevation also dropped, so we also conducted cloud seeding and it was stopped by typhoon Nona," Bote said.
Due to below-normal rainfall, Bote said local flows such as the Peñaranda River Irrigation System, which caters to Gapan City and Atate Dam that serves this city, were also adversely affected.
She commended farmers belonging to various irrigators’ association for working with them in alleviating the impact of the water shortage and taking conservation steps.
“Farmers within the jurisdiction of NIA-UPRIIS are aware of the state of irrigation, and we expect their cooperation to maximize any rainwater blessings and drainage re-use. Even pumps or pumps are also reserved to be used as needed. Rotational use of irrigation flow is also being implemented in the service areas of the various divisions," she said.