The government is set to expand the scope of water rationing and prepare rain-inducing measures as it struggles to tackle the issue of dwindling water reserves.
Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) said yesterday that the government would impose a second phase of water rationing in parts of New Taipei City (新北市), Taoyuan and Hsinchu counties on Wednesday next week and extend the measure to Miaoli County, Greater Taichung, northern Changhua City, Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung on May 23.
The first phase of water rationing was implemented on April 1 in northern and central Taiwan.
Shih said the government hoped it would not have to impose “a third phase of water rationing next month because it would greatly inconvenience the public.”
Shih made the remarks at the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Standing Committee meeting as he explained the ministry’s proposed solutions to the water shortage.
Under the second-phase water-rationing plan, water for fountains and other non-essential uses, such as for cleaning streets, ditches and building exteriors, would be cut off.
In addition, supplies to swimming pools, car washes, saunas and other operations that use 1,000m3 or more of water per month would be cut by 20 percent, while water supplies for industrial use would be reduced by 5 percent.
Household water use would be restricted under the third-phase water-rationing plan.
Shih said his ministry would also work with the Ministry of National Defense and the Central Weather Bureau to induce rainfall when necessary, but added that the rain would bring limited effects.
He added that the government would strengthen measures to promote water conservation and discuss the possibility of adjusting low water prices.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who doubles as KMT chairman, called on the public to join the government’s water conservation efforts.
“The water shortage could become a public security problem if not taken seriously. We should make it a habit to conserve water, gas, electricity and other energy,” he said.
Later yesterday, Ma presided over a meeting with several government agencies to discuss the water shortage. He is scheduled to visit Shimen Reservoir, which supplies water to northern Taiwan.
At a separate setting yesterday, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Hwang Jung-chiou (黃重球) said if the nation’s worst drought in eight years persists until the end of next month, water supply to various areas of the country would have to be rotated.
This would constitute a third phase of water rationing, Hwang said.
There is usually no need to implement third-stage water rationing in the middle of the year, Hwang said, but this year could even potentially see a fourth phase of measures, which would involve supplying water only at designated times and places.
Meanwhile, Water Resources Agency Deputy Director-General Wu Yueh-hsi (吳約西) said the agency was mulling increasing water usage fees during the dry season for big water users and giving subsidies to low water users, low-income households and underprivileged groups.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA