Sun, Aug 13, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Water price increase not sensible

By Chang Yen-ming 張炎銘

Taiwan Water Corp chairman Kuo Chun-ming (郭俊銘) has suggested that water prices could be raised during droughts. According to this suggestion, if the water supply in an area falls below a certain value, users would have to pay more for their water.

However, the only result of such an approach would probably be to increase administrative costs and cause the situation to deteriorate even further.

The nation’s water situation is prone to quick changes. A typhoon or torrential rain can change the situation altogether so that a period of measures to fight a drought could be followed by flooding. This situation makes it questionable whether it would be reasonable to ask the public to pay more for their water during a temporarily difficult situation.

Furthermore, using only the water level at reservoirs and rivers as a measure of the situation leaves something to be desired. When the Water Resources Agency announces the water situation, it also considers factors such as weather forecasts, groundwater and regional support; information that is discussed by the concerned departments before a conclusion is reached.

Using the water level as an administrative standard when making decisions on water reserves or rationing is workable, but if it was also used to decide water prices, too much importance would be given to the accuracy of the alert level system.

Such an approach could perhaps also be open to political interference. Therefore, how to accurately reflect the water situation in a certain place at a certain time would also likely become a source of dispute.

Another issue is that topological, geological and hydrological factors, as well as land use issues, must be considered before construction of water reservoirs, which means that a reservoir cannot necessarily be built somewhere just because water is needed there. This means that allocation between regions is both reasonable and necessary.

Keelung relies mainly on Feitsui Reservoir (翡翠水庫), while Kaohsiung relies mainly on the Gaoping River (高屏溪) for its water, although when there is a shortfall, water can be transported via pipeline from the Nanhua Reservoir (南化水庫). Miaoli County and Tainan have several reservoirs that can serve as backup for other areas.

There are some mayors and county commissioners who are unwilling to assist in the construction of water reservoirs due to environmental pressures and instead prefer to rely on other cities and counties for their water. However, to punish local residents for this is neither fair nor reasonable.

The jurisdictions of cities and counties do not match the distribution of piped water areas, and reservoir management is not the responsibility of cities and counties. If a failure to properly manage reservoirs is creating water problems, is requiring local users to pay more for their water not putting the cart before the horse?

It is indeed necessary to save water and to set a reasonable price for water. However, Taiwan Water should take a page from Taiwan Power Co’s book and adapt its summer season pricing for electricity.

There is no need to complicate matters, and it would be better to start out with a dry season price. The dry season runs from November to April, a full six months.

It would be better to pick the two driest months, January and February, and test to see whether a higher price would have an effect on use, resulting in water savings. Such a test should apply to the whole nation, which would result in less resistance, as it would be more fair and reasonable.

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