Environmental activists yesterday called on the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and an environmental impact assessment (EIA) committee to reject a policy proposal seeking changes to drinking water source protection areas.
Taiwan Water Resources Protection Union (TWWPU) spokesperson Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) said the proposed policy was aimed at downsizing existing drinking water source quality protection areas and that would have big repercussions on drinking water quality if approved.
The designation of drinking water source quality protection areas by the EPA in 1998 was actually unnecessary, since the Ministry of Economic Affairs had already designated tap water quality and quantity protection areas in the 1970s, Chen said, adding that the areas designated by the EPA were smaller and already included in the tap water protection areas.
TWWPU director Jennifer Nien (粘麗玉) said that for Gaoping River (高屏溪), for example, the drinking water source quality protection area is only 175,450 hectares, accounting for only 60 percent of the ministry-designated tap water protection area of 289,600 hectares.
The management of water quality in drinking water source areas is based on the EPA’s Type I Groundwater Pollution Control Standards, while the management of tap water quality and quantity protection areas is based on Type II standards, which are much looser, Nien said, “but the water body of the two areas are connected to each other and they should be regulated under the same standard, Type I.”
“We fear that if the policy proposal is approved at the EIA meeting, then local governments will follow the model and arbitrarily propose to downsize water quality protection areas.” Chen said.
“The safety of water resources in Taiwan is already at a critical point, so we can’t understand why the administration proposed this policy, which will have a negative impact on water resources and cultural heritage,” he said.
During the EIA meeting, several committee members and governmental officials also agreed that the existing drinking water sources should not be altered arbitrarily.
“On the designation, I think a stricter standard is better than a loose one,” said Liu Yi-chang (劉益昌), a committee member.
The committee decided that existing designated areas should not be abolished or changed. It also asked for additional information, including the evaluation of the environmental impact of “downsizing and abolition” of water protection areas.