Tue, May 03, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Low rates hamper water conservation: WRA head

SHORTAGE:With water levels in the nation’s reservoirs falling to dangerously low levels, the WRA said it might have to implement a second phase of water rationing

Staff Writer, with CNA

Given low charges for water, incentives such as discounts for low water consumption might not have the desired effect, Water Resources Agency (WRA) Director-General Yang Wei-fu (楊偉甫) said yesterday.

Yang made the remarks at a legislative committee meeting on the threat of a water shortage caused by low rainfall, with water levels at the nation’s reservoirs continuing to decline and possibly reaching “alarming levels.”

Although some rain fell in the northern parts yesterday, the water level at the Shihmen Reservoir (石門水庫) has continued to drop, the agency said.

‘ALARM LEVELS’

As of 9am yesterday, Shihmen’s water level had fallen to a new low this year of 220.71m, the agency’s northern region office said.

That was slightly above the 215m level that the government designates as an “alarm level.”

The catchment area of the reservoir received only 5.5mm of precipitation on Sunday, far below the reservoir’s needs after a long dry spell.

Because of low amount of spring rainfall this year, water levels at other major reservoirs, such as Baoshan (寶山水庫) and Baoshan No. 2, are all at risk.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said the agency should give users discounts similar to those offered by Taiwan Power Co (Taipower), in which the more a subscriber conserves, the bigger the discount provided, to help reduce water consumption.

Yang said the agency implemented several water conservation measures last year, including subsidies for the purchase of water conservation equipment.

“The problem is Taiwan’s water rates are comparatively low, so these incentives failed to achieve the same effects as those offered by Taipower,” he said.

Asked about the recycling rate for industrial water, Yang said the rate was between 63 percent and 65 percent nationwide, and about 85 percent for the high-tech industry, resulting in an overall average of 75 percent.

There was still room for improvement, he said.

Yang said the country was also often troubled by inadequate precipitation in the first half of the year and too much rain in the second half.

The government has been implementing consumption controls and water conservation measures since early this year, and water use has dropped by about 95 million tonnes so far this year, he said.

AGRICULTURE

In the agricultural sector, the government has yet to impose fallow land requirements but has reduced water supplies to the sector, he said.

He said that if precipitation remained low, the agency might have to impose a second phase of water rationing at the end of the month. Non-urgent water supplies for purposes such as for street-cleaning will be halted, while supplies to swimming pools, car-washes, saunas and heavy users will be slashed by 20 percent per month and those to industrial users will be cut by 5 percent.

The agency implemented its first phase of water rationing in Hsinchu County on March 18 and expanded it on April 1 to cover Banciao (板橋) and Sinjhuang (新莊) in New Taipei City (新北市), as well as Taoyuan and Miaoli counties, Greater Taichung and Changhua County.

The rationing has taken the form of reduced nighttime water pressure for households.

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