Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-hsiang (施顏祥) said yesterday that phase one water rationing would continue to the end of this month at the very least, but he was hoping that further restrictions would not prove necessary. However, the government has not taken the possibility of increased rationing off the table, he said.
In phase one of rationing, water pressure is reduced from 11pm to 5am. In phase two rationing, water supplies for fountains and other non-essential uses such as cleaning streets and building exteriors would be banned, while supplies for swimming pools, car washes, saunas and operations that use 1,000m3 or more of water per month would be cut by 20 percent and supplies for industrial users reduced by 5 percent.
A La Nina weather pattern last year has led to reduced precipitation this spring, while the annual plum rains began later than usual. Weather forecasters have also predicted below average amounts of rain over the next two months.
“The ministry is now planning to maintain phase one water rationing till the end of this month, and would at most impose phase two, and not begin phase three water rationing at the end of June,” Shih said.
He said that recent days of plum rains had quenched the thirst of reservoirs nationwide a bit, but “not enough to lift the drought crisis.” Therefore, “we are still in a water rationing state,” he said.
However, he hopes phase two water rationing will not be necessary before the end of next month.
He was very optimistic that the government would not need to resort to phase three rationing, which entails cutting off supply to different areas of the country on a rotating basis. Before last weekend’s rains, his agency had warned that this might happen.
Speaking to a legislative committee meeting, Shih said the Water Resources Agency was considering charging higher water rates.
Under the proposed scheme, the four-tier pricing system would be expanded to five or six tiers and the agency would charge the higher rates to people and companies in the top tiers to discourage wasteful practices
At present, water rates range between NT$7.35 and NT$12.075 per 1,000 liters.
“The differential water rates proposal would require communication with the public, and will need some time before its implementation,” Shih said.