THE Bago River Irrigation System (BRIS) is slowly drying up because of the dry spell that hit Negros Occidental starting February.

Engineer Rita Suarez of the Negros Occidental Irrigation Management Office of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) said they have minimal water supply to provide for the rice farms in the cities of Bago and Bacolod, and Murcia town.

"The water level of the BRIS has dropped by 30 centimeters," Suarez said.

The BRIS covers 13,350 hectares serving about 8,900 rice farmers in Bacolod, Bago and La Carlota cities and Murcia, Pulupandan, San Enrique and Valladolid towns.

Suarez said that because of the drop of the water level at the irrigation systems, they have delayed the release of water for the northern part of their coverage area for two weeks.

"We have no choice, and the farmers will just have to equally distribute the available water supply among themselves," she said.

Rosemarie Caunca, president of the League of Government Assisted Federation of Irrigators Associations in Negros Occidental, said they are implementing a rotation system of irrigation so that all areas can be adequately covered.

“Let us pray for rain to alleviate the plight of farmers suffering from the dry spell,” Caunca said.

Meanwhile, small sugarcane planters in the province are asking for government support to help them cope with the effects of dry spell.

Some of the small farmers especially in Bago City said their plantations are also drying up because there have been no rains in their area since December.

They fear that if the dry season continues, their sugarcane fields may no longer survive.

They added that they are only dependent on their sugarcane plantations where most of them have less than a hectare to two hectares.

The Sugar Regulatory Administration reported that about 70,000 hectares of sugarcane plantation in the province are already affected by the dry season.