Recent rains in central and southern Taiwan have not refilled water reservoirs, prompting the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) to announce that next month would bring further water restrictions to some parts of the nation.
Some areas of Miaoli County and Taichung are to be placed on “red alert,” meaning that water supplies to households and businesses would be on for five days and off for two days, the ministry said yesterday.
Parts of Changhua County closest to the border of Taichung will be included in the tighter restrictions, the ministry said.
However, Hsinchu is to be spared further restrictions thanks to water supplied via the Taoyuan-Hsinchu pipeline, Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花) said.
“The Taoyuan-Hsinchu pipeline brings more than 200,000 tonnes of water per day to the Baoshan Reservoir (寶山水庫) and the nearby Baoshan Second Reservoir (寶二水庫) in Hsinchu County, allowing them to be drawn down much more slowly,” Wang said.
The Baoshan Second Reservoir is just 9.02 percent full, Water Resources Agency data showed.
The two reservoirs supply the Hsinchu Science Park (新竹科學園區), home to production facilities operated by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電) and other tech companies.
The additional restrictions are to take effect on April 6, following Tomb Sweeping Day.
TSMC said it maintains “contingency plans for each stage of the government’s water restrictions.”
“Some TSMC fabs will slightly increase the percentage of water used from tanker trucks to improve flexibility,” the company said.
“The requirement that we cut water usage by 15 percent starting on April 6 will not affect our operations,” it said, without elaborating.
Some tech production zones in Taichung’s Houli District (后里) have their own dedicated water pipelines, so they would not be affected by the rolling two-day outages, Wang said, adding that such zones would only reduce water use by 15 percent.
Major water users would need to transition from an 11 percent to a 13 percent restriction, while other industrial users would need to follow the same rolling outages as households.
“Most buildings have water towers that hold more than a two-day supply if the water is carefully conserved,” Wang said.
“Similarly, we’ve checked that businesses have water reserves that will last them two days so that production can continue undisrupted,” Wang said. “Other areas that have their own water supplies, such as those with groundwater wells, will be allowed to continuously use those resources.”
The government is hoping that the “plum rains,” which usually start next month, would help to replenish reservoirs, and that Taiwan would have typhoons this year.
Meanwhile, the government has been seeding clouds and digging wells.
“We have to expect the best, but prepare for the worst,” Wang said. “Even if the plum rains don’t bring much rain in May, we can continue living and our businesses can continue producing.”
If the situation remains dire, the restrictions would be tightened, she said, adding that she could not predict the duration of the crisis.
Taiwan was last placed on a “red alert” in 2015 and 2002, Water Resources Agency Deputy Director-General Wang Yi-feng (王藝峰) said.
“The reservoirs are actually at lower levels than they were in either 2015 or 2002,” Wang said. “But thanks to efforts such as the Hsinchu-Taoyuan pipeline, the desalination plant and emergency wells we have managed to hold on for this long before being placed on ‘red alert.’”
Additional reporting by Reuters
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