NIA says water for Pangasinan farms not enough this dry season

DAGUPAN CITY — An official of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has confirmed that not enough water is available to all the rice farms in eastern Pangasinan during the coming dry months.

Ceferino Sta. Ana, project manager of the Agno Irrigation System Extension Project, a special project of NIA, said this is because the reservoir of San Roque Dam in San Manuel town failed to attain its desired water level.

Sta. Ana, speaking to newsmen during the Irrigation Stakeholders’ Forum at CSI Statia in Dagupan Wednesday afternoon, said the present elevation of the San Roque dam reservoir is 272 meters above sea level (masl), considered as “below normal level”.

By the first week of November, the elevation of water in the dam’s reservoir should be 280 masl or at least 278 masl to ensure enough water for all the farms set to be planted for the second rice cropping season, he said.

Because of this, he said, NIA as well as the Department of Agriculture might be forced to limit the programmed areas for second crop rice in eastern Pangasinan.

Under this scheme, Sta. Ana explained, only rice lands programmed for planting for the second cropping season will be given water during the dry months.

He said there was not enough rains and fewer typhoons affecting the upper stream of the Agno River, resulting in below normal water level of the San Roque dam.

He also noted that despite the mild El Niño this year, which may extend up to April next year, San Roque dam failed to attain its desired water level.

San Roque has components for hydro-electric power, irrigation as well as for flood control and pollution control.

The water impounded in its reservoir is first used in generating some 400 megawatts of power for the Luzon grid. In the course of power generation, it discharges water downstream and is captured in the re-regulating pond which distributes water to the farms.

Sta. Ana said that because of the water shortfall, they may also resort to water scheduling in areas programmed for planting this coming second crop season.

He said NIA is now conducting meetings with farmers in eastern Pangasinan to explain to them the situation.

During the past provincial administration, Governor Amado Espino III already directed the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist to intensify the distribution of shallow tube wells in areas that could not be reached by national irrigation systems to enable farmers to plant their crops.

As a result, Oftociano Manalo, president of the Pangasinan Irrigators’ Association, called on his fellow farmers to plant corn and vegetables rather than palay in the coming few weeks.

He made the suggestion on account of the admission of NIA that the volume of water impounded at San Roque dam reservoir will not be enough for all the farm lands in the lower stream of Agno River.

Manalo said that unlike palay, corn and vegetables need only a little amount of water to grow.