Hot springs water costs set to double

NO MORE DISCOUNT::Following a decision by the Water Resources Agency to bring its discount period to a close, many hot-spring resorts will raise customer prices next year

By Wu Po-hsuan, Wang Yang-yu and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Sat, Dec 14, 2013 - Page 4

Despite protests from hot-spring resort owners in northern Taiwan, the Water Resources Agency (WRA) has said it will stick to its plans to cancel bulk water price discounts for the hot-spring industry next year.

The move will effectively double prices from NT$4.5 to NT$9 per cubic meter.

WRA Director Yang Shih-wei (楊世偉) said the agency has carefully considered the increase — as detailed in the Hot Springs Act (溫泉法) — but said that when it comes into effect, hot-spring owners’ overheads would only increase by NT$9 for every 2m3 of water used.

The act introduces payment for water usage by hot springs.

However, when the law was signed, the government agreed to introduce a buffer period to help hot-spring resort owners, Yang said, adding that the end date had been in June.

By law, the price per cubic meter of water is set at NT$9, but during the grace period, the government halved prices, Yang said, adding that the price increase was already in place in at public hot spring resorts in Taipei City’s Beitou District (北投), New Taipei City’s (新北市) Wulai District (烏來), and Gaunzhiling (關子嶺) in Greater Tainan’s Baihe District (白河).

However, there are over 500 privately owned hot-spring resorts across the nation whose usage fees are collected only once a year, where changes have not yet taken effect.

Taipei City’s Department of Economic Development had attempted to persuade the WRA to agree to put the policy on hold, since fuel, gas and electricity prices are rising, but Yang said that the discounts would be canceled across the nation on Jan. 1 next year.

Some hot spring resort owners responded by saying that they would adjust prices after the Lunar New Year holiday next year.

“We hope that owners will be honest in their overhead estimates and not raise their customer prices too much,” Yang said.

The government collects around NT$150 million (US$5 million) a year from the hot-spring industry, with 10 percent going to the WRA for preservation, prospecting and water quality research.

The remaining 90 percent goes to local governments to ensure those operating in the industry comply with the law.