Sun, May 12, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Water conservation must be taught

By Lin Sue 林素貞

For several days now, television and other media have run constant, frightening reports on water reservoirs drying up and dried-out farmland. Highlighting the seriousness of the drought and the need for water rationing is of course understandable, but if only the dangers are highlighted and no clear solutions are proposed, it will only increase public concern.

From the way people are rushing to buy water tanks or bringing home big bottles of water, we can see that people are competing to get their hands on more water, rather than saving it. If that were not the case, then why don't we see people in discount stores rushing out to buy water-saving equipment? Clearly the message to the public has only emphasized drought and water rationing, which has simply prompted people to try to solve the problem by buying more water.

It is obvious that the relevant agencies still need to make an effort at initiating proper water-saving concepts and methods for such measures to have any effect. In fact, the UN's World Meteorology Organization and many research reports have already predicted a future tendency toward a global increase in droughts and flooding. Water has therefore become a most important and precious resource for every country, and aggressive water preservation and efficient water-resource management are already important policies in many countries, integrated with policies for sustainable development.

In fact, domestic water fees have been rather low for a long time. Not only do they not reflect the real cost of providing water, but they also do not consider the huge funds that will be needed to develop new water resources in the future, which is not very cost-efficient. No wonder the people of Taiwan lack the concept as well as habit of conserving water.

According to information published on the Taiwan Water Supply Corp's (台灣省自來水公司) Web site, between 1996 and 2000 each Taipei resident used, on average, in excess of 360 liters of water per day. The cost of water was only NT$7.8 per unit, compared to NT$10 per unit in other counties and cities. This is much too cheap, and it is little wonder that people in Taipei on average use over 40 percent more water than their counterparts in other cities and counties.

Citizens, large companies and public institutions in Taipei must start to aggressively save water, otherwise it will be impossible to solve the problem by transporting water to Taipei from the south. Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪), executive-general of the Cabinet's disaster relief center, said recently that she had "requested that the Ministry of National Defense prepare and inspect 12 transport boats for the transportation of water from the south to the north of the island. Transported volumes will be low, however, and we still haven't figured out how to move the water from the Tsengwen Reservoir to the boats."

This is quite a fantastic idea, perhaps inspired by the selling of water by Mawei in China's Fujian province to Matsu. It is doubtful whether such a strategy would be feasible and cost efficient, and whether it would bring a fundamental solution to the drought. These issues should be carefully considered before a real solution is proposed.

As the nation's leader, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is of course deeply concerned about the drought. To calm public worries, he has said that he will go to Taipei's Sungshang Tzuyu Temple to pray for rain. We have absolutely no doubt in Chen's sincerity, and neither do we deny that burning incense sticks and praying for rain will have a certain calming effect on society. But could it really be that prayers for rain will bring an end to the problem? I believe that most people are clear on the fact that it would be better to ask the president to lead the public in efforts to be more economical with their water usage, much in the same way as he led the public in a weight-losing effort when he showed that his pot belly wasn't there any more. Just think, if it were possible to also eliminate the serious problem of leaky water pipes, wouldn't that be great? Let's make saving water and dieting our new popular movement.

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