MANILA -- An expert sees a possible reduction in Magat Dam's water allocation during the first semester of 2019 as a way to minimize the effects of the drought-driving El Niño phenomenon.

"Such reduction will help ensure availability of Magat water until this year's rainy season sets in," Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) hydrologist Richard Orendain said in an interview Saturday.

Orendain added that the measure will help ensure the availability of water supply from the dam for a longer period, which is primarily used for irrigation and power generation.

This, Orendain said, can be done particularly during the March-April harvest time, when demand for irrigation water is lower.

Rainy season in the country usually begins in late May but this might be delayed due to the El Niño phenomenon, which PAGASA said may strike early this year.

The weather bureau also forecasts a below-normal rainfall in Magat's watershed this month and way-below normal rainfall there in February, March and April.

As of 6 a.m. Saturday, Orendain said water level in Magat Dam was at 189.98 meters.

"Magat's operation is still normal," he said.

Citing projections based on both PAGASA's rainfall forecast and the assumption that Magat's 125 cubic meters per second allocation for irrigation and power generation will continue, he said water level in this dam may dip to almost 168 meters by end-April.

"Water in Magat Dam is unlikely to reach the critical low elevation of 160 meters there," Orendain clarified.

The projections indicate Magat Dam may recover afterwards, with water level in this facility rising to about 183 meters by end of May 2019, he noted.

"It usually rains hard in Magat's watershed during May. Such downpour helps Magat recover," he added. (PNA)