Record Drought Brings Rationing

Phase-3 water rationing will begin April 1 in parts of northern Taiwan as the nation struggles with its worst drought in 67 years, declared Yang Wei-fu, vice minister of economic affairs, at a press conference March 19.

The stringent water rationing will be implemented in New Taipei City’s Linkou, Banqiao, and Xinzhuang districts, along with Taoyuan, all areas supplied by the Shimen Reservoir, which is now holds less than 25% of its capacity. Experts estimate that the reservoir currently has only a two months’ supply of water before running completely dry.

Under Phase-3 water rationing, households will be supplied with water only five days a week, which could be reduced to four days a week if conditions do not improve. MOEA stated that the worst-case scenario would see water supplied for only a few hours per day. The water restrictions will impact more than a million residences and industrial users.

The new restrictions will further reduce the supply of water to industrial parks in Taoyuan, New Taipei City, and Miaoli County – from the current 7.5% reduction from the normal level to 10%. These industrial parks are home to some of Taiwan’s biggest water consumers – semiconductor and LCD manufacturers – prompting some to consider drastic action that might include trucking in water from remote parts of the island. But some manufacturers, such as Taiwan’s largest DRAM maker, Nanya Technology Corp., have their own well-managed water supplies and say they will be unaffected by the cutbacks, at least in the short-term.

The Hsinchu Science Park will also tighten up restriction on water supplies, from the current 5% reduction to 7.5%. The Industrial Development Bureau is set to release a study on the impact of water rationing on industries by the end of April.

Nearly all of Taiwan’s reservoirs are less than half full, with only the Feitsui Reservoir – the source of Taipei City’s water – filled to a comfortable 80% of capacity.