Water levels capable of filling the Shihmen Reservoir (石門水庫) four times have been shown to have leaked from municipal pipes each year, according to a report from Taiwan Water Corp (TWC) and the Taipei Water Department.
The report said the highest water leakage rate in 2009 was in Keelung and the northern parts of what is now New Taipei City (新北市), with a combined leakage rate as high as 34.76 percent. The second-highest water leakage rate was 30 percent, combined from areas in Greater Taichung and Nantou County, it said.
In other words, the report said, over one-third of total tap water levels in those regions have been lost when flowing through pipelines.
According to Taiwan Water and Environmental Association honorary chairman Ouyang Chiao-fuei (歐陽嶠暉), the annual rate of tap water leakage in all of Taiwan proper is about 25 percent (725.7 million tonnes), with an average leakage of 196 tonnes per day.
If water prices were to be reasonably adjusted and pipelines renewed, the rate could drop to about 10 percent, in accordance with International Water Association standards, Ouyang said, adding that the total increase to water supply per annum after the changes would stand at 426 million tonnes.
Kevin Lo (駱尚廉), professor at the Graduate Institute of Environmental Engineering at National Taiwan University, said the total length of TWC-controlled pipes is 55,000-plus kilometers, but about one-third (16,500 km) has exceeded service age and is in extreme need of being replaced, he said.
Despite this, data from the Cabinet suggested that replacing antiquated pipelines each year stood at only 0.58 percent and was a far cry from the 2 percent that had been set as the goal, he said.
Mercy on the Earth founder Lee Ken-cheng (李根政), citing Greater Kaohsiung as an example, said that if it could lower its leakage rate by 10 percent, it would have an additional increase of 136,000 tonnes of useable water per day.
Lee said that in recent years, the Taipei Water Department has invested NT$550 million (US$190 million) in lowering the leakage rate by 4.17 percent to about 143,330 tonnes per day.
“This proves fixing the leakages is more efficient than building reservoirs and manmade lakes,” Lee said.
Because 70 percent of the needed water supply in Greater Kaohsiung is drawn from the Gaoping River (高屏溪), and without a reservoir the region is prone to water shortages, the Water Resources Agency plans to construct the nation’s first large manmade lake — the Jiyang Lake (吉洋人工湖) — along the border of Greater Kaohsiung and Pingtung County to alleviate the area’s shortages.
Lee, however, branded the project as “the stupidest case,” saying that while the plan would cost national coffers NT$16.1 billion for every phase of the project, it would yield only 127,000 tonnes of water per day.
TRANSLATED BY JAKE CHUNG, STAFF WRITER