Thu, Mar 14, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Rain forecast brings hope for relief

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Government officials hope that the rain forecast for today in northern Taiwan will help alleviate drought conditions that have led to water rationing in parts of Taipei and Taoyuan Counties.

The water-rationing measures have been in place since Tuesday in some cities in both counties. The measures are the result of one of the driest winters on record and government officials have urged residents nationwide to conserve water.

Taipei City workers yesterday began collecting water from brooks to water shade trees -- a measure the city hopes will save 100 tonnes of tap water daily. In addition, the opening of city pools could be delayed until May.

Rain clouds expected today are not forecast to leave until Sunday. Government officials hope the rainfall will bring relief to the parched Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park and to rice farmers.

In addition, the Water Conservancy Agency under the Ministry of Economic Affairs plans to carry out steps to induce artificial rainfall at 12 stations in three counties today.

Called "cloud seeding," the agency plans to create artificial rain by releasing silver iodide smoke particles into clouds. Water freezes around the particles and falls, turning into rain before reaching the ground. Another method is to drop many kilograms of dry ice into the tops of clouds by airplane.

The techniques don't create water, however, they only work if there's water present in a cloud. For this reason, officials at the Central Weather Bureau said the cloud-seeding projects to be carried out today won't create enough precipitation to ease the drought.

"We will notify water-resource officials as soon as possible if wind direction and other weather conditions are right for carrying out cloud-seeding projects," said Daniel Wu (吳德榮), deputy director of the bureau's forecast center.

Wu said rain clouds would most likely appear in Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli Counties today, but said it was unwise to be too optimistic about the cloud-seeding projects.

Lee Tieh-min (李鐵民), head of the North Water Resources Bureau under the economics ministry, said today's cloud-seeding projects will mostly take place from the ground.

After receiving instructions from the Central Weather Bureau, officials will burn silver iodide at ground stations, releasing smoke particles into the atmosphere.

Plans to use airforce planes equipped with silver iodide burners remain uncertain. If called into action, the planes could also drop dry ice into clouds as well, officials said. Lee said the Air Force's Weather Wing will decide today whether to participate in the precipitation project.

Officials at the water resources bureau hope for rain at Shihmen Dam in Touyuan County. The reservoir has cut its supply of water to Taipei County by 100,000 tonnes daily since Tuesday.

Farmers planting 15,000 hectares in Taoyuan County have been forced to complete transplanting rice seedlings by tomorrow. The water supply to agricultural fields is scheduled to be reduced to just 60 percent of normal levels beginning on Saturday.

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