MOEA monitoring potential water shortage amid low rainfall

Taipei-- Lower than average rainfall in most of Taiwan in recent months has led to concerns at the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) of potential water shortages, leading to precautionary measures, including setting up an emergency response task force.

Economic Affairs Minister Lee Chih-kung (???) said Wednesday that the water supply situation in parts of 21 counties and cities around Taiwan is expected to worsen in the near future, due to lower rainfall than in the past.

The water supply in Taoyuan and Linkou, Banqiao and Xinzhuang districts in New Taipei began flashing a "green" light on Feb. 3, suggesting supply is tight, Lee said, and he expected some other cities and counties to follow suit in the near future.

According to data from the Water Resources Agency under the MOEA, the water monitoring indicator flashed a "blue" light -- indicating sufficient reserves -- for all other parts of Taiwan proper as of Feb. 3.

To be prepared for the worst, however, an emergency response task force was set up on Tuesday, Lee said, and his ministry has discussed a strategy of "supplying southern areas with water from the north" with the Taipei Water Department.

The MOEA has also instructed state-owned Taiwan Power Co. to closely monitor the operations of its hydropower plants, and also ordered relevant agencies to be ready to launch rainmaking missions at any time, Lin said.

According to Water Resources Agency data, water reserves at Shimen Reservoir in northern Taiwan, which mainly supplies water to Taoyuan, Banqiao and Xinzhuang in New Taipei and Hukou in Hsinchu County, were down to 66 percent of its capacity on Wednesday from the Feb. 3 level of 72 percent, averaging a 1-percent drop per day.

Reserves were hurt as only 44 millimeters of rain fell in Shimen Reservoir from December 2016 to January 2017, or only 27 percent of the average rainfall during the same period since records have been kept.

While water reserves at Shimen Reservoir were measured at 133.3 million cubic meters on Wednesday, they should reach at least 170 million cubic meters for supply for people living on the reservoir's water to be "relatively safe," WRA officials said.

The agency has decided to convene a meeting on Feb. 21 to discuss whether to Shimen Reservoir should impose first-stage water rationing.

Under the MOEA's five-color monitoring scheme for water supply, a "blue" light indicates that water supply is stable, while a "green" light signals the supply is tight and that water resource allocation needs to be adjusted.

If water supplies become tighter, the MOEA will flash a "yellow" light, which indicates the first stage of water restrictions will begin. It means tap water pressure will be reduced during off-peak hours.

If water levels continue to drop, an "orange" light will signal the start of second-stage restrictions: water fountains will be turned off, streets will not be washed, and water to high-volume users will be reduced to stabilize supplies for the wider public.

In the most severe situation, a "red" light will flash to indicate third-stage restrictions: rationing the region's water supplies (by zone or by time of day) to maintain a minimum supply of water.

Water Resources Agency data shows that in the three-month period from early November last year to late January, rainfall in major water reservoirs in Taiwan was generally 1 percent to 46 percent lower than the average level in the same period in past years.

Water reserves at key reservoirs were all lower than their capacities on Wednesday, the data indicates.

The Central Weather Bureau is not optimistic about rainfall in the short term, predicting that Taiwan is likely to see dry weather from February to April, according to the agency.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel