Global environmental challenges
Rainy Taiwan faces awkward water shortage
Chronically rainy Taiwan faces a rare water shortage as leaders ask that people on the dense, consumption-happy island of 23 million finally start changing habits as dry weather is forecast into early 2010.
Taiwan, a west Pacific island covered with rainforests and topical fruit orchards, is used to rain in all seasons, bringing as much as 3,800 mm (150 inches) on average in the first 10 months of every year. But reservoirs have slipped in 2009 due to a chain of regional weather pattern flukes giving Taiwan too much dry high pressure while other parts of Asia get more storms than normal, the Central Weather Bureau says.
Deadly typhoon Morakot in August brought more than half the year’s rain to much of south Taiwan, washing away drought fears as well as a lot of other things. But the three-day storm dumped too much rain at once for much storage or use. Despite the typhoon, southern Taiwan’s anchor city Kaohsiung was 20 mm below average in the first 10 months of 2009, with the typhoon’s contribution about half the 1,747 mm total. Below-average rainfall resumed after the typhoon, the weather bureau said, and the same is forecast through February.
Some reservoirs in south and central Taiwan have hit water-rationing levels, a senior climate researcher told the United Daily News , adding that “southerners had better not go home for the Chinese New Year” in February.
Authorities in Taiwan won’t say when they might ration water or how long Taiwan can get by without more rain. For now they are trying to wash off the spectre of rations by asking ordinary people to make awkward, expensive lifestyle changes. One: Reuse water used for baths or laundry to wash floors. Two: Install low-flush toilets, low-flow faucets and low-usage washing machines. The island’s Water Resources Agency aims to reduce today’s average per capita water use of 274 litres per day down to 250, said drought prevention director Wang Yi-feng. “We also hope they change and correct their use of water,” Wang said. “To reuse water can save a lot.”
Consumers are likely to consider low-flush, low-flow appliances only when buying new homes or remodeling them, being in a mood already to spend money on updates, said a volunteer surnamed Tsui with the Consumers’ Foundation, Chinese Taipei. “But if you’ve got older equipment, then maybe not. The cost would be unknown.”
((Photos: Low water levels in Taiwanese reservoirs – courtesy of Government water resources agency))