Wed, May 08, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Water to last until end of June

THIRSTING Officials say that the nation's water resources should keep until the end of June; and if it rains a little this month, the crisis point will be pushed back a few weeks


Officials stressed yesterday the importance of water conservation, because water for residential and industrial usage can be ensured only until the end of June.

According to the Cabinet's disaster-relief center -- which was established to deal with the increasing drought -- water levels at the Shihmen Dam (石門水庫) in Taoyuan County -- one of the major water sources of northern Taiwan -- was expected to reach its "dead storage" level (呆水位, the level under which water must be pumped out of the reservoir) on May 25, if rain had not come by then.

"The dam's dead storage amounts to about 15,000 tonnes of water, which is enough to support us until the end of June," said Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪), executive-general of the center.

Kuo added that if 80mm rain falls in the middle of May, the dam may reach its "dead storage" level as late as June 10.

The average rainfall during May is about 450mm.

The Central Weather Bureau (CWB) predicts that rain will fall this Saturday.

Kuo said that officials had considered imposing stricter water-rationing measures in Taoyuan County and related details would be discussed on May 9.

Although the water levels of most reservoirs are falling, water resource officials said that people should stay calm, as only 19.7 percent of Taiwan's total water consumption, about 18.034 billion tonnes per year, comes from reservoirs -- the rest comes mainly from groundwater sources.

Director-General of the Water Resources Agency (水利署) Hwang Jing-san (黃金山) told the Taipei Times on Monday that people suffering from drought could still rely on alternative sources of water, such as groundwater, but they must guard against the over-pumping of groundwater.

"It's about survival. I think we can use groundwater wisely at the moment," Hwang said.

Hwang -- who announced his intention to resign on Monday, under pressure from opposition lawmakers -- turned in his resignation to Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Yi-fu (林義夫) yesterday.

But the minister asked him to stay on and Hwang decided yesterday to keep working for the time being.

"I still think I'm too old. When this water crisis is over, I'll hand my responsibilities to younger water experts," Hwang said.

Hwang, 65, holds a Ph.D from Japan's Meiji University and he has worked in the water-conservation sector for more than 40 years.

He retired in February from heading both the Water Conservation Agency (水利處) and the Water Resources Bureau (水資局) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

But when the Water Resources Agency -- composed of several water-related units -- was established late March, Hwang was asked by former Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Hsin-yi (林信義), now Vice Premier, to head the new agency.

Legislators have criticized water resources officials' slow response to increasing signs of a coming drought back in late February and early March -- when water shortage at Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park occurred.

Control Yuan members Chao Chang-ping (趙昌平) and Lin Shih-chi (林時機) have investigated administrative procedures and have discovered that some officials ignored early drought warnings from their subordinates in January.

"Certain emergency measures could have been taken earlier to decrease the crisis' magnitude," Chao said yesterday.

Chao and Lin's investigative report will be released today.

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