DOE: Cloud seeding won’t solve water shortage

DOE: Cloud seeding won’t solve water shortage

CEBU City’s Buhisan Dam has now dried up, while the Metropolitan Cebu Water District’s (MCWD) other surface water sources have also been producing just a fraction of their normal capacity amid the drought caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon, translating to a loss of 63,000 cubic meters of water per day or 21 percent of the water district’s normal production.

Yet the drought is still far from ending, as state weather bureau Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) says it will persist until the end of May.

So how to replenish these sources when there is no rain to do the job?

Cloud seeding is the obvious answer, since if the rain won’t naturally fall, it can just be induced to fall--except that the Department of Energy (DOE) said Thursday, April 25, 2024 that it is no silver bullet that can instantly solve the problem.

In a statement, the agency said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had already directed the implementation of cloud seeding operations and that these were already being conducted in “certain areas of the country.”

The only problem, the agency said, is that “expansion of rain-seeding operations has been limited with the absence of seedable clouds due to the prevailing El Niño.”

On Friday, April 26, Cebu experienced a heat index of 40 degrees, which is just a preview of things to come as Pagasa said Cebu typically experiences its highest temperatures in May.

The heat index refers to how the temperature feels like to the human body when combined with humidity.

On the same day, the area with the highest heat index in the country was Dagupan City, Pangasinan in the far north of the country, with the index sizzling at 48 degrees Celsius.

This was followed by a heat index of 46 degrees Celsius experienced in Aparri, Cagayan and Pili, Camarines Sur, both in Luzon; and closer to home, Guiuan, Easter Samar in the Visayas.

The Pagasa has previously said that a heat index ranging from 42 to 51 degrees Celsius is categorized as “dangerous” with heat cramps and exhaustion highly likely, and heat stroke becoming probable with continued outdoor activity.

Power problems too

To combat the heat, residents will rely more on electric fans and air conditioners, which has already raised the demand for electricity and prompted the issuance by the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines of yellow and red alerts in various parts of the country as increased demand combined with lower energy production from hydro-powered sources and unscheduled maintenance activities by power firms to reduce the power reserves or cause demand to outstrip supply in the grid.

However, the DOE said increased demand puts pressure on prices of electricity in the spot market, forcing the country to dispatch the more expensive oil-based power plants.

So to avoid the use of expensive power, the agency has asked the public to avoid further strain on the grid by reducing their power demand.

The agency said that as early as Jan. 16, 2024, President Marcos had directed government agencies through Administrative Order 15 to reduce energy consumption by among others, implementing flexible work arrangements.

Government agencies are also now setting the thermostat of office air-conditioning units at a higher 24°C and limiting operating hours to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., as well as encouraging employees to take the stairs when going just one floor up or down, and turning off lights and computers at lunch breaks.

The DOE is encouraging the private sector to implement similar energy conservation measures, especially during peak hours.

Distressed barangays

On Friday, the MCWD added 11 barangays to its initial list of 12 barangays affected by water shortages in three cities in its franchise area. The 11 are San Nicolas, Bulacao, Punta Princesa, Pardo, Banawa, Mambaling, Tisa and the barangay where V. Rama Avenue is situated in Cebu City and Pooc, Tabunok, San Isidro in Talisay City.

The first 12 identified barangays on April 10 were Umapad, Opao, Alang-Alang, Looc and Subangdaku in Mandaue City; Lorega San Miguel, Binaliw, San Jose, Talamban and Pit-os in Cebu City; and Cansojong and San Roque in Talisay City.

But these are far from the only places in the MCWD franchise area affected by water supply shortages, as residents in other areas have also complained of low to no water supply.

Last Wednesday, MCWD Joselito Thomas Baena officer-in-charge general manager said he had already visited 11 barangays in Cebu City, most of which had had no water for the past three days, with Pasil having “zero” water supply for more than a month already.

And yet all the distressed barangays he visited—like Barangays Sambag 1, Sambag 2, Sta. Cruz, San Antonio, Tinago, Barrio Luz, Kamputhaw, San Nicolas Proper, Suba, Duljo Fatima and Pasil—are not on the MCWD’s list of 23 barangays affected by water supply shortages.

It is unclear if the San Nicolas included in the MCWD list is the San Nicolas Proper visited by Baena as Cebu City has three barangays with that name: San Nicolas Proper, Basak San Nicolas and Pahina San Nicolas.

MCWD serves the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Talisay and Lapu-Lapu, and the towns of Consolacion, Liloan, Compostela and Cordova.

Baena was appointed by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA)-installed MCWD interim board as OIC general manager (GM) last April 22 to serve during the 90-day suspension of MCWD GM Edgar Donoso. But Donoso has not recognized the LWUA’s authority to suspend him.

The MCWD interim board suspended Donoso last April 12 for defying its request to turn over documents related to its investigation on MCWD’s transactions. / CTL


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