Sun, May 12, 2002 - Page 8 News List


Rationing is not the answer

It is with complete amazement that I read the headline "Rationing to begin Monday will cut taps off completely" (May 8, page 1). Having lived through six years of drought in California from 1987 to 1992, I fully endorse the need to promote conservation and regulate water use. However, experience and research among most water management authorities and independent water conservation groups is not in favor of an outright ban.

In addition to the widespread disruption this will cause to businesses across the city, cutting off water for 24 hours is likely to cause panic and further drain reservoirs as people start stock-piling water all across the city. This leads to further waste as the water in bathtubs and buckets which isn't used during that 24-hour period is likely to be discarded. As for those who don't store water, the only other alternative will be to find somewhere else in another district to bathe, do their laundry, wash their cars, etc.

By far the most effective method of encouraging water conservation is a well managed education campaign backed by financial incentives (and penalties). Consumers will voluntarily use less water if they are shown ways to do so and know that their water bill will reflect their efforts. Rationing alone ignores the fact that individual users do not place the same value on water. Most of us, however, do respond to the value of money. This has already been proven in Taipei with the refuse collection system that was piloted last year. Knowing that I have to pay for my rubbish bags, I produce less consumer waste and recycle more.

There is no better time than during a drought to instill good water conservation habits. It is, after all, not only when reservoirs are low that we should strive to waste less water. The conservative way in which I use water today was defined by a massive public awareness campaign I was first exposed to over 15 years ago. As a result, saving water has now become a habit regardless of the current market price.

Neil M. Webb


Taipei City's scheme to cut water to districts on a rotational basis is a bad idea. It will not save water, it will encourage residents to waste water. Here's why: Most of the residential complexes in the city have large cisterns on their roofs that hold water for use by the families below. The night before the water is to be cut to a certain area, residents will fill up their bathtubs, basins and empty water bottles "because the water is going to be cut."

When the cut comes, the cisterns will provide enough water for the residents during the stoppage. After the 24-hour period is over and the water is "turned back on," residents will take all that water that they "saved" and toss it down the drain. In fact, residents will not have experienced any interruption in water service -- when the water comes back on it will simply replenish the cisterns of the apartments around the district.

This kind of water cut scheme is a city government stunt whereby they can be seen to be doing something, rather than effectively facing the situation. It is as if the crisis planners and Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) are playing the computer game "Sim City" -- and making a dog's breakfast of the thing.

Mark Wolfe


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