Water Sources Drying up: El Niño’s Damage to Rice Fields P8.5-M and Rising - CT

The on-going drought triggered by the El Niño phenomenon has already caused P8.5 million in damages to rice fields in six of the province’s 11 towns, according to the Provincial Agriculture Support Office.

Provincial Agriculturist Herbert Evangelista reported to Governor Joseph C. Cua last Friday that the loss in rice production amounting to 1,976.04 metric towns is expected to increase when the rest of the municipal agriculture offices submit their reports this week. The partial report covered only the towns of Bato, Caramoran, Gigmoto, Pandan, Panganiban and San Andres, with the other towns accounting for over 4,000 hectares of rice fields.

The drought has affected 1,656 hectares of standing rice crops tilled by 1,443 farmers in the six towns, Majority of the rice crops were in the reproductive stage. Of the total, 567 hectares have been assessed as having no chance of recovery.

The lack of rainfall that started in September 2009 has led to dried and cracked rice paddies even in the fields girding the capital town of Virac. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has predicted that the drought will last up to May this year, even though rains could fall as early as the second half of March.

Records at the PAGASA Virac Synoptic Station shows that rainfall for the four-month period from November 2009 to February 2010 fell by an average of 67.5 percent compared to the same period one year ago.

In December 2009 alone, the weather bureau recorded only 97.8 millimeters of rainfall, just a fraction of the 596.7mm in December 2008. On the other hand, the January 2010 precipitation was slightly better at 217.5mm but it was still 60% less than the 544mm recorded in January 2009.

PAGASA weather specialist Jun Pantino said that this February alone, it has rained in only eight of the 28 days, with a total volume of 46.5mm, far from the 279.3mm recorded a year ago. The last time rain fell in Virac was on Feb. 17.

He said that while there have been clouds, precipitation is being hindered by strong winds and the effects of global warming. Daytime temperatures have been hovering at just over 30 degrees Centigrade, with morning temperatures cool at about 19 degrees, while humidity is in the high 80’s, he said.

Meanwhile, the Virac Water District has warned that it may resort to rationing if water flow in its three water sources continue to drop.

VIWAD General Manager Engr. Virgilio T. Arcilla told the Tribune that its total water production has fallen by 50 percent from the normal 102 liters per second to about 54 liters per second, forcing the water firm to undertake sandbagging at the Padurog, Cauayan and Sibanjan water sources to maximize intake of water into its reservoirs.

The management is likewise preparing for the operation of the water tank inside the Catanduanes State Colleges, with the water drawn from the deep well to be tested first for possible contamination before facility is operated.

In the meantime, the district advised its 5,800 consumers to conserve water by shutting off faucets when not in use, re-using water, and putting off indiscriminate use of hoses in watering plants and cars. GM Arcilla also appealed to consumers to report leakages along its transmission and distribution lines and even in house connections so that VIWAD personnel can respond immediately. "Right now, the extra water we can use is being wasted in leaks," he stressed.

Source: Catanduanes Tribune - 03 March 2010

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