The northeast monsoon continues to dominate weather patterns over Taiwan Thursday as cooler weather from the latest front has settled over most of the island but has done little to relieve water shortages that are leading to increasingly severe rationing.
The Central Weather Bureau advises that during the next couple of days people living in the northern and northeast areas of Taiwan can expect brief showers, while the central and eastern regions may experience local rain from time to time and the south will be mostly sunny with little or no chance of rain
One bright spot in the nation’s weather report was news of heavy local thundershowers in mountainous areas of Keelung and Taipei as well as on the northern coast. People in coastal areas and on the water are advised to be alert for strong northeasterly winds and high waves in Taiwan in the northern areas of the island, the Hengchun Peninsula in the south and coastal areas of eastern Taiwan. Orchid Island, Lanyu and the islands of Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu are likely to experience strong winds with gusts ranging up to 8 and 9 on the Beaufort scale at sea.
Meanwhile officials in government agencies are meeting to discuss whether more severe water rationing needs to be imposed to deal with continued drops in water levels in the island’s reservoirs.
The Central Drought Response Center is to review the status of water reserves in the Shimen Reservoir Water District on Friday. Currently that district is in a Stage Two “On for five, off for two” rationing pattern in which water is supplied on a rotating basis to various areas of the district for five days in a row, then cut off for two days. The Drought Response Center will discuss whether to upgrade to Stage Three of water rationing, under which water would be supplied on an “On for four, off for two” basis or even an “On for two, off for two” pattern.
In the southern part of Taiwan, where water shortages are most severe at present, the government is considering reducing the supply of water from the current 7% on heavy industrial users to 10%.
Officials in Kaohsiung City and Miaoli remain optimistic about prospects for water use despite the current need for restrictions. In Tainan, Hsinchu and other parts of the island, however, officials are watching the skies closely to see where rain falls.
At the Shimen Reservoir water inflow continues to lag behind outflow as the latest recorded data showed that 1.01 tons of water flowed into the reservoir, considerably less than the 1.43 million tons that flowed out. Thus officials are still considering whether to raise the level of rationing in the water district from Stage Two to Stage Three.
At Yonghe Reservoir in Miaoli, where the primary users are households in the areas of Toufen, Chunan and Sanwan, the water supply has reached 7.01 million tons or 24.95% of storage capacity. An official at the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) notes that if the current drought continues the ministry will consider imposing Stage Three water rationing in the early part of May.
Lai Chien-yan, the chief secretary of the Water Resources Agency (WRA), says the agency will meet Friday to review water rationing in the Kaohsiung area. The primary issue right now is a 7% reduction on water supplies to 522 heavy industrial users in the region. Friday’s meeting could bring a decision to raise that reduction to 10%, a move which would affect large water users in the steel and petrochemical industries of the south.
Minister of Economic Affairs John Chen-chung Deng has remarked that users in affected areas may be allowed to pump more groundwater to make up for cutbacks in water supplies from nearby reservoirs.
Deng notes that in light of the current extended drought the MOEA is considering other options for dealing with water shortages such as desalination plants, dredging of reservoirs and increased recycling of waste water. Desalination plants could be constructed in each of the northern, central and southern parts of the island to provide water, while the WRA estimates that effective dredging of reservoirs could double their storage capacity and provide greater amounts of reserve water to help forestall water shortages in the future. At the same time, increased pumping of groundwater is being considered as an emergency measure where needed.
Officials of China Petroleum and Formosa Petroleum note that they have already suspended operations of car wash facilities at their gasoline stations in areas of Taoyuan City and New Taipei City where water rationing is currently in effect.