TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Shimen Reservoir yesterday reached a record-low water level amid a prolonged island-wide drought, raising the possibility of further tightening of the water supply to many of the areas in Northern Taiwan.
The water level is down to about 25 per cent, or 50.62 million metric tons of its total capacity, the lowest recorded since the dam was built, the reservoir authorities said yesterday.
Shimen, a main water source for Taoyuan County, as well as New Taipei City's Linkou, Xinzhuang and Banqiao districts, releases a total of about 1.75 million metric tons of water daily, meaning it could dry up completely in less than two months if the drought continues.
Nine cities and counties around Taiwan have already entered second-stage water rationing, and the government previously expressed the hope that the third stage would not have to be implemented before June. But that hope seems to be dimming, at least for the areas relying on Shimen.
Shimen Reservoir authorities have admitted that the goal of not entering the third-stage water rationing is a "pretty big challenge."
The central government's disaster response centre has decided to reduce industrial water supply to 7.5 per cent of normal levels for Banqiao, Xinzhuang, Taoyuan and Miaoli County starting March 13.
The second-stage water rationing has mostly affected agricultural and industrial users, but if the third-stage water rationing has to be implemented in the Shimen areas, 1.51 million households will be affected. The third stage will involve a rotation of water supply to different areas.
President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday inspected the Shimen Reservoir. He noted that except for the Feitsui Reservoir, which is still 80 per cent full, all other reservoirs of the country have reached levels less than 50 per cent of their full capacities. Feitsui supplies water to Taipei City and some areas of New Taipei.
The president urged the nation to reduce water use.
Vice Economics Minister Yang Wei-fu told the president during a briefing at Shimen that Taiwan is seeing its worst drought in 10 years.
The rainfall has not been as much as expected this spring, with the rains over the Lunar New Year period failing to bring any meaningful relief to the drought.
He said the Economics Ministry and the military have made artificial rain seven times in the Shimen area, and dredging is being conducted at the reservoir.
Rice cultivation has been suspended in Taoyuan to reduce the use of water from Shimen, Yang said.