CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija — The prolonged drought caused by the weak El Niño weather system will pass without hurting farmers within the programmed areas of the National Irrigation Administration – Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation System (NIA-UPRIIS), as water in the Pantabangan Dam is expected to be enough at about 197.78 meters by end of April.
Engineer Rose Bote, NIA-UPRIIS department manager, said Wednesday the irrigation water supply from the Pantabangan Dam, local flows and other sources would still be enough to supply the programmed areas of the UPRIIS in Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Tarlac and Pampanga.
“That is amid (the) projection that El Niño would worsen this month,” she said.
Water level at the dam was placed at 198.58 meters above sea level (MASL) on April 2.
Last March, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Alert System Status of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration reported that Nueva Ecija was among the places that would experience drought at the end of April due to below normal rainfall for three consecutive months.
Citing historical records when the country was hit by the worst El Niño in 2015, Bote, however, expressed belief that farmers in the NIA-UPRIIS programmed areas are in a better position this year.
Records showed that water level at the Pantabangan Reservoir in April 2015 was at 178.59 meters while this month’s projection is at 197.78 meters.
Back then, NIA-UPRIIS serviced 91,156.24 hectares or 106.17 percent of the 85,857.54 programmed area.
Records also showed that despite the heavy drought in April 2015, water level gradually increased to 179.60 meters in May and 180.39 by June that year.
In April 2016, however, the water level of 191.82 MASL increased to 192.62 in May but dropped to 187.44 in June. Pantabangan Dam, however, still served 112,190.33 hectares, way above the 102,824.14 hectares (109.11 percent) the agency programmed that year, data showed.
Bote said they programmed 125,848.39 hectares this dry cropping season but has irrigated 136,723.92 hectares (108.64 percent) as of March.
She said this season will end with a buffer stock for the next cropping (wet) season. (PNA)