Saturday, August 13, 2005

More on Water Woes, or a good example of bad writing.

The discussion of Taiwan's water troubles continues unabated. The Taipei Times had another commentary today, this one an extremely poorly written work from Lee Ken-cheng, the chief of the Kaohsiung Teachers Association's Ecological Education Center. Lee concludes:

Instead, I want to use the Erfeng Ditch as a reminder that if the water turbidity problems after heavy rain continue, the government's stubborn belief in the construction of weirs and dams should be discarded.

Instead, the government should find a way for effective water resource management that can truly benefit the nation.

Also, it would probably be a way to stop future water stoppages during the rainy season.

One thing I always tell me students is: be concrete. Here is a good example of a poor ending that essentially says: "the government should do better." Well, there isn't anyone who doesn't believe that the government should do better. But Lee fails to specify what positive, concrete steps the government should take to address the problem. This poorly-conceived piece also has no introduction that lays out the idea of the article. Here is the opening paragraph of the letter, which plunges right into the topic:

The turbidity of the water in the Shihmen Reservoir (石門水庫) has worsened to 25,000 NTU (nephelometric turbidity units). The poor water quality has left more than 630,000 households in both northern and southern Taoyuan County either receiving water on a rotational basis or not at all.
Any student who handed me something like that, without proper background and organization, would be docked a ton of points and become the object of some tart commentary. Policy always improves vocabulary.....I had never heard the term nephelometric turbidity units until the recent spate of articles on water in the local newspapers. Quickly I Googled the term, and found this page that cleared everything up for me:

What in the world are Nephelometric Turbidity Units (NTU's)?

They are the units we use when we measure Turbidity. The term Nephelometric refers to the way the instrument estimates how light is scattered by suspended particulate material in the water. The Nephelometer, also called a turbidimeter, attached to the RUSS unit has the photocell (similar to the one on your camera or your bathroom nightlight) set at 90û to the direction of the light beam to estimate scattered rather than absorbed light. This measurement generally provides a very good correlation with the concentration of particles in the water that affect clarity.

I did find Lee's description of the Erfeng Ditch utterly fascinating, and a good example of how well the Japanese built.

About 80 years ago during the Japanese period, a Japanese engineer used hydraulic engineering techniques to construct the Erfeng Ditch (二峰圳), and since then, the water in the Linpien River (林邊溪) has remained clear all year around.


Since surface water goes through permeable sand and gravel as a natural filtration process, even during periods of heavy rainfalls or typhoons causing high water turbidity, the Erfeng Ditch can still have supply clear water.

Some pics and Chinese text on the Erfeng Ditch are here.

UPDATE: Taiwan News reports that water service has not yet been restored toTaoyuan as of 8/12.

Even though water service was restored to residents of southern Taoyuan County at midnight on Thursday, some 300,000 households in the northern half of the county were still without water as of last night.

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