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Is Wawa River capable only of 50 MLD?

(Article published in the Oct 28, 2009 issue of Manila Standard Today)  

It is accepted by both proponents and opponents of the Wawa Dam as an alternative (or supplementary) source of raw water for Metro Manila and environs that the dam can deliver 50 million liters per day (MLD).  This is admitted by Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Administrator Diosdado Allado.  This is part of NEDA’s presentation at the Philippine Development Forum on March 31, 2008 at Clark, Pampanga.

 The real question is: is 50 MLD all that Wawa can deliver? 

 A crude way of arriving at a reliable answer to the question is to compare the size of the Wawa watershed with the size of other watersheds with admitted or established production, the nearer the places compared the better.  For instance, the Wawa watershed area is 27,700 hectares.  Laiban has a watershed area of 28,000 hectares.  The two of them are in the same general area.  Laiban is trumpeted as having the capacity to deliver 1,900 MLD.  Shouldn’t it stand to reason that the capability of Wawa watershed ought to be almost the same as the capability of Laiban?

 Yet for some strange reason, Wawa dam is considered by the government as capable of delivering not more than 50 MLD.  Thus, in water supply demand projection portion of the study on the Laiban Dam Project made by MWSS dated September 6, 2000, Wawa was presented as capable of producing only 50 MLD. 


When, the following year, MWSS itself applied for a water permit for Wawa dam, it indicated its expected average yield of 15 million gallons per day (MGD) only  which is equivalent to 56.775 MLD.  That MWSS did not apply for more indicates that about 50 MLD is all that it thinks Wawa could produce.

 In the study on “Water Resources Development for Metro Manila in the Republic of the Philippines” , February 2003, prepared for the National Water Resources  Board and Japan International Cooperation Agency by Nippon Kofi Co. Ltd, NJS Consultants, also put Wawa’s production at only 50 MLD.

 Even Manila Water Company, Inc., a private institution, shares the same restricted view on what Wawa can produce.  In its 2003 Rate Rebasing Submission, Wawa’s contribution to the water that the concessionaire can deliver is pegged at 50 MLD.

 En contra, studies indicate that, with minor modification, Wawa could be coaxed to deliver more than 50 MLD. 

 For instance, The Final Detailed Technical Report dated April 15, 2008 on the Proposed Wawa Dam 80 MLD Water Supply Project prepared by Mabanta Aldovino Mapa & Associates proves 50 MLD is just the beginning.  Based on its study of the discharge record of Wawa from 1958 to 1991 and of the data from the National Water Resources Board, the firm is convinced that 80 MLD, initially, can be made available with no major repairs or modification needed, and thus with minimum investment requirements and insignificant increment in operating cost.  But, within a year, the initial cash flow could be used to finance the development of larger capacity supply systems of the area.

 What cannot be ignored is that in 2005 TCGI Engineers, a consulting firm duly accredited by the government responding to comments of the National Hydraulic Research Center (NHRC) of the University of the Philippines, adviser to NWRB, confirmed that the flows from Wawa could be at least, not just 50 MLD, but several folds more, at 1500 MLD.  The justification for its assessment, said TCGI, was that NWRB and MWSS considered Wawa a run-of-the-river-flow type of river.  That is, a river with only a minimum of water impounded. 

 Previous studies by the Presidential Inter-Agency Committee for the Re-Study of the Marikina River Project (PICOREM) IN 1979 and the Bureau of Research Standards of the Department of Public Works and Highways had in fact made higher estimates of Wawa’s capacity.  PICOREM placed it at 19.3 cubic meters or 1667 MLD and DWPH at 18.13 cubic meters or 1566 MLD.  TCGI, opted to err on the side of conservatism, and placed it only at 16.64 cubic meters or 1437 MLD.  At the same time, it conceded that the firm divertible flow can still be increased by the optimization of reservoir operations. 

All these indicate that Wawa rehabilitation, with the consequent reforestation that is, on the side a big assist to the management of flooding in the area (as underlined by Ondoy), ought to be given a more serious second look.  Even MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando himself, in a recent TV interview stated that the major cause of floodings in Metro Manila is the denudation of the Marikina watershed, -- which is actually  the watershed of Wawa Dam.

 These findings by reputable and responsible people cannot be simply ignored and brushed aside just because the people with brawn and bronze (or tarnished currency) do not find it palatable to sit down and talk it out with the one with rights and in the right.

 With the Laiban Dam mired in controversy, with Angat teethering with signs of old age, with demand for water in Metro Manila getting bigger and stronger, amor propio should yield to amor pro patria.