Water shortage becomes new focus for gov’t

By Stephanie Chao, The China Post and CNA

TAIPEI, Taiwan — President Tsai Ing-wen Wednesday called sustainable water management the government’s “most important policy responsibility,” as water shortages brought on by low rainfall saw rationing introduced in the parts of Taiwan.

Tsai said there was a need to roll out and invest in technology-driven sustainable water resource management to overcome what had become a “yearly obstacle.” Her comments came following a meeting of the party’s Central Standing Committee, where Minister for Economic Affairs Lee Chih-kung presented a report on the nation’s water resources. The report was presented on the same day as phase-one water rationing came into effect in parts of Taiwan. Lee reported that due to the climate change, the chances of extreme wet and dry seasons would increase, resulting in a severe imbalance in the distribution of rainfall throughout the year. Lee added that the dry season in 2015 was the driest on record, and that from December 2016 to the end of February this year rainfall was the second-lowest on record. Should phase-two water rationing be introduced, it would see an initial 5 percent reduction in water supply for industrial sectors, which would be gradually notched up to 20 percent if needed, Lee said. “The biggest goal for the government is to not enter phase three of regional water rationing before the end of May.” The government was closely monitoring Tainan and Kaohsiung, as those two cities were at their driest in May and June, he added.

Tsai said that water shortages had become a “yearly obstacle,” not only the agriculture sector, but also for industrial users. She pointed to water environment preservation measures in the government’s recent infrastructure agenda.

The agenda aims to resolve the water shortage problem by restoring rivers, and ensuring that no sector lacks water Tsai called on “the entire nation” to lessen the pressure on water supply by “embracing conservation.” Insufficient Rainfall

Phase-one water rationing was introduced Wednesday in Taoyuan, Hsinchu and New Taipei’s Linkou, Banqiao and Xinzhuang districts, to combat a water shortage across the country, which had not been significantly eased by recent rainfall, the Water Resources Agency (WRA) said. Under phase-one rationing, water pressure will be reduced from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. in the above areas, according to the WRA’s Northern Region Water Resources Office, which urged the public to use less water. Due to insufficient rainfall from the end of December to January, major reservoirs around the country are currently at less than 60 percent of capacity. The WRA said that although the recent weather front did bring rain around Taiwan, though not in the south, the volume of rainfall was insufficient to alleviate the water shortage problem.