Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Rain pattern, 2nd to 3rd qtr 2008

The rains started early this year, from late April to May. June to July though were generally dry, except on days where there were some typhoons. Two strong typhoons came in May and June, and people in the affected provinces really suffered huge losses – from dead or missing people, damaged houses, school buildings and farms, knocked down power lines and posts, and sunken ships. One big passenger ship that sunk last June trapped and killed several hundred people. There were also typhoons from July to September, but they were not particularly very destructive.

Weather in the 3rd quarter of this year was a bit abnormal. Three weeks of almost no rain, from the second half of August to first week of September. But by middle till the end of September, the rains were back. And when it rained, it poured! Metro Manila and neighboring provinces experienced huge flash floods at least twice last September. The volume of rain water was like the rain for one week poured in just two hours! So many parts of Metro Manila were inundated and flooded for at least two days last month, and the traffic congestion on those two days was horrible.

Politics can get in as some opposition politicians would blame those in the administration for not improving the drainage system’s capacity to absorb and drain the huge volume of flash flood. Of course it does not help that much of the surface area of highly urbanized cities are cemented, so that rain water that are supposed to seep into the soil would drain onto cement and the streets, and the drainage are swamped with a huge volume of water that suddenly accumulate.

Many rice farmers in rice-growing provinces already harvested their crops by end September, until early October for the first crop season of the year. So many roads in those provinces, provincial or barangay roads, are often full of “palay” (unmilled rice).

A big challenge for farmers and soil/water conservationists is how to trap some of the surplus rain water, especially during monsoon season. One less costly and less-complicated structure to build are small water-impounding projects. In areas where there are small gullies or depression, these can become natural water reservoir after check dams are constructed. Trapping even one or two cubic meters of rain or spring water per structure, and if one can build three or more such structures would mean a lot. One, water run-off (and topsoil erosion) during heavy rains is drastically reduced. And two, there is water to use for irrigation when the rains have stopped.

Towards the latter part of this month, rains will be fewer. Until the end of fourth quarter, there will still be some scattered rains, especially when there are some weather disturbances like late-forming typhoons. So those small water-impounding structures will be very helpful for irrigation until the second crop of rice farming.