Experts warn of water shortage crisis

03/08/2021 10:22 PM
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Techi Reservoir (Photo courtesy of a private contributor)
Techi Reservoir (Photo courtesy of a private contributor)

Taipei, March 8 (CNA) Experts have warned of a looming water shortage crisis in Taiwan amid a months-long dry spell in parts of the country unseen in 56 years because of an absence of tropical storms making landfall on the island last year.

On Monday, Central Weather Bureau (CWB) Director-General Cheng Ming-dean (鄭明典) said a high pressure system blanketing southern Taiwan has created a stable atmosphere, preventing rain from falling in the region, where water shortages are especially severe.

Although there has been plentiful precipitation in northern Taiwan in recent days, it has been of little help to the overall situation, Cheng said.

WeatherRisk Explore Inc. General Manager Peng Chi-ming (彭啟明) told CNA Sunday that rainfall will be scarce across Taiwan in March and April, and the situation is very much likely to continue into May and June, commonly known as the plum rain season.

"There is no room for optimism," he said.

Asked if tropical storms could form earlier this year in the Pacific, Peng said there are no signs indicating such a possibility so far.

He stressed, however, that it will take more time to judge the situation because Taiwan has never gone two consecutive years without being hit by a typhoon.

His remarks echoed a forecast by the CWB showing relatively limited precipitation in Taiwan in the months ahead.

According to the bureau, rainfall in Taiwan will be normal or less than normal from March to April, with May to receive even a lower amount.

Taiwan relies mainly on the plum rains and rain from tropical storms to fill its reservoirs, but bureau forecaster Kuan Hsin-ping (官欣平) said occasional plum rains brought by seasonal northeasterly winds will not be enough to end Taiwan's water shortages, in particular in central and southern Taiwan.

Agreeing with Peng, Kuan also said it was too early to determine how much rain will fall during the plum rain season and if a typhoon or tropical storm will come early.

The persistent lack of rain has meant reservoirs across Taiwan are drying out faster than at any time since 1965, a phenomenon that was triggered last year when no typhoons needed to maintain a stable water supply made landfall in Taiwan.

According to the Water Resources Agency (WRA), water levels in six reservoirs have fallen below 20 percent of their capacity.

The six reservoirs are the Second Baoshan Reservoir, which provides water for the Hsinchu Science Park, Yongheshan Reservoir, Mingde Reservoir, Liyutan Reservoir, Techi Reservoir and Zengwen Reservoir, which is the largest reservoir in the country.

The water level at reservoirs in northern Taiwan -- Baoshan, Yongheshan, Mingde and Liyutan -- were at 12.43, 11.81, 10.64 and 15.08 percent capacity as of Monday, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Techi and Zengwen reservoirs in Taichung and Chiayi were at 10.19 and 15.22 percent capacity, respectively, WRA statistics showed.

In an effort to deal with the acute situation, WRA officials will discuss workable measures with companies based in the Hsinchu Science Park, including the last resort, digging wells, to ensure a stable water supply if the lack of rain continues.

(By Flor Wang and Chang Hsiung-feng)

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