MANILA Philippines–During this time of the year, the water elevation at the Laguna Lake should be at least 11.5 meters, but for a month now, the elevation has been “stagnant” at 11 meters and officials of the Laguna Lake Development Authority are praying for more rain.
Emil Hernandez, officer-in-charge of the LLDA’s Integrated Water Resources Division, said the lake’s water elevation has been lower than what would be expected during the rainy season.
“It should be at 11.5 meters, but the rain is not continuous so the water is stagnant at 11 meters,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview.
Hernandez said downpour in the eastern part of the Laguna province in the past few days was not enough to raise the water to the desired level.
Despite the lower water level, LLDA officials are not pushing the panic button yet. According to LLDA chemist Dolorita Ravanilla, the low level is a boon to fish pen operators in the lake as it increases the salinity of the waters in their pens. “It’s an advantage to them,” Ravanilla said.
Laguna Lake, which is bounded by Manila, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite provinces, is the largest brackish water lake in the Philippines with a total surface area of 900 square kilometers.
The LLDA estimates that more than 10 million people depend on the lake’s ecosystem. People depend on it for food, irrigation, transportation, flood water reservoir, and industrial cooling, among others.
Many people living within the watershed depend on the lake for food. High commercial value fish are milk fish or bangus, tilapia, carp, thai catfish or hito, ayungin, and biya. There are about 269 species of plants, fishes, and various kinds of aquatic organisms.
Hernandez said low water level would affect farming communities around the lake’s shoreline. He noted that those who got their irrigation water from the lake would not be able to use the water because of its higher salinity content.
Hernandez said most of the communities around the lake have been planting fast-growing vegetables like beans and root crops. Some also plant rice in the villages around the shoreline.
The Laguna Lake, along with the Manila Bay, supplies water to the Pasig River.
The extended dry spell has not affected the water level at the river, which is used as an alternative transport route by companies that use barges to move their products from their sites to the Port of Manila.
Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission executive director Zoilo Andan said, “in terms of the water level, the impact is minimal.” He noted that barges continued to traverse the river.