Thursday, May 12, 2011

Water rationing to expand -- expect shortages to become a permanent feature over the next twenty years

The government announced that it was expanding water rationing in Taiwan later this month as the island's reservoirs are scraping the bottom:
The government is set to expand the scope of water rationing and prepare rain-inducing measures as it struggles to tackle the issue of dwindling water reserves.


Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) said yesterday that the government would impose a second phase of water rationing in parts of New Taipei City (新北市), Taoyuan and Hsinchu counties on Wednesday next week and extend the measure to Miaoli County, Greater Taichung, northern Changhua City, Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung on May 23.


The first phase of water rationing was implemented on April 1 in northern and central Taiwan.
Taiwan is now in its worse drought in eight years. This is part of a long-term trend, as I noted in a post a couple of months ago. The Straits Times has a longer discussion -- the issue is of course the way humans are heating the global climate:
.....The last time Taiwan rationed water was in 2004, at the height of its worst drought. It lasted 21/2 years and affected the whole island.


Dr Wang Chung-ho, a research fellow at the Institute of Earth Sciences at Taiwan's top think-tank Academia Sinica, told The Straits Times: "We can't tell how long this one may last. But we're worried it may surpass even that previous drought." The phenomenon is likely due to global warming, he added, intensifying the frequency and severity of droughts in Taiwan over the past 40 years.

Ironically, Taiwan has one of the world's wettest climates, with about 2,500mm of rain a year on average. However, much of this flows right back into the ocean due to Taiwan's mountainous terrain and lack of water channels. Yet water tariffs remain unsustainably low.

In a commentary Tuesday (May 10), China Times said weather extremes caused by global warming are set to become the norm, yet Taiwanese are still "blissfully unaware" of the gravity of the situation.

"The government has named low birth rates as an issue of national security," said the daily. "The truth is, lack of water is a bigger problem than lack of people."
Of course, President Ma mouthed the usual nice words about Taiwan needing a long-term plan for droughts and floods, but in fact during the Chen Administration the DPP fielded a comprehensive land and water planning regime which the KMT controlled legislature gutted and turned into just another developmentalist program for spraying more concrete across Taiwan's landscapes.

Water supply issues are intertwined with many other issues, from polluted rivers to land subsidence, but water is of course a key factor in Taiwan's attempt to increase its production of grain.
“The country's grain self-sufficiency rate now stands at 32 percent and the rate could be significantly raised to nearly 40 percent in 2020 by increasing domestic crop consumption,” said COA Minister Chen Wu-hsiung (陳武雄) yesterday in Taipei.

In order to achieve the goal, the COA is drafting measures to bring more fallow fields back into cultivation, Chen added.

Chen made the comments during a conference aimed at developing solutions to Taiwan's “food deficit” and new approaches to food security in the country.
Increasing grain production is an urgent necessity since rising petroleum prices over the long term gravely threaten Taiwan's food security. In 2008 when oil hit $120 a barrel Taiwan stopped importing sweet corn from the US and sourced it from China. Since China is also a food deficit country, this is obviously not sustainable. Long-term projections for climate change show that the grain producing regions of the central and western US are going to suffering from permanent drought by mid century (for example) and Taiwan can expect further declines in rain. Preparation now is urgently necessary.

Water policy is also intimately connected to the construction-industrial state that has fueled domestic politics and KMT power for the last fifty years. A forward-looking DPP policy in this area can address both its political inferiority at the local level and help Taiwan as the world moves forward into its fossil fuel-driven Saharan future.
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12 comments:

FOARP said...

Of course, President Ma mouthed the usual nice words about Taiwan needing a long-term plan for droughts and floods, but in fact during the Chen Administration the DPP fielded a comprehensive land and water planning regime which the KMT controlled legislature gutted and turned into just another developmentalist program for spraying more concrete across Taiwan's landscapes.

Do you want to back that one up? I can't find anything either way. Doesn't mean its not there, just means you didn't give link or quote.

Anonymous said...

Aside from global warming making Taiwan's weather both drier and more damaging from typhoons--

We lose so much water during transport. Raise water prices and fix the infrastructure please!

Michael Turton said...

Do you want to back that one up? I can't find anything either way. Doesn't mean its not there, just means you didn't give link or quote.

No, FOARP. You go ahead and pretend to yourself I am lying.

Okami said...

The problem with raising water rates outside of large cities is people will drill wells using cheap electricity(agriculture subsidies for electric) and then we have the other problem of encroaching salt water.

Water and sewer aren't sexy. Nobody points to a water treatment plant with pride. No newspaper articles welcome its arrival. It's boring, out of sight and out of mind. This issue will probably get as much discussion in the presidential race as foosball does.

You may pipe up about desalination plants like the one they put on the Matsu Islands that didn't work(did they fix it?). The problem with those is they require a lot of electricity and Taiwan is going through a phase where it thinks that it needs to use more expensive options for electricity because no one in charge is familiar with what makes Taiwan rich.

As for the 60 year prediction chart for less rain, well I view that as about reliable as people who predict earthquakes. They can't guess the weather out past 7 days, what in the world makes you think they can guess out rainfall patterns 60 years in advance when almost all predictions have either been horribly wrong or outright frauds(Hockey stick graph/Himalayan Glaciers melting away).

Herman said...

Okami,

Do you have insight into what makes Taiwan rich? Will you say more on that?

FOARP said...

@Michael - Dude, how exactly can you make claims like that without backing it up?

We all remember the droughts that happened in the last decade when the DPP were in power, you say they put in place measures that would have prevented further droughts, but these were gutted by the KMT. However, you don't give any evidence to support this assertion.

The result is that, yet again, it looks like you're blaming the KMT alone for something which the DPP by rights share at least as much responsibility for.

Okami said...

Taiwanese make things out of metal and plastic things. They take something relatively useless like a hunk of steel or plastic and turn it into something that people will buy or use to make a very advanced product(like cars). Entrepreneurship requires energy not only from people but machines and machines need electricity. A quick run through Taiwan's neighborhoods will quickly remind or awaken you to the need for such. I'd rather the CNC's and arc furnaces here rather than China. Due to the nature of Social democratic countries and their difficulties in selling services, I'm overly protective of such as my job depends on it.

The only thing I find abhorrent is the reliance on cheap overseas labor rather than further mechanization and the subsequent skilling of the native population to run it. In agriculture I could understand it, but not in manufacturing, I find it a terrible waste. Wages tend to equal less than the productivity of the worker in an efficient market. Therefore I'm a fan of training and mechanization to improve the productivity of workers in order for them to make more money and enjoy a higher standard of living.

Michael Turton said...

FOARP, I never said it would have prevented drought, merely that it was a comprehensive land and water plan. I have no idea what its effect on the drought would have been, but it would be an important step forward.

But given the (totally erroneous and egregious) way you were shitting on me on your own blog, you can understand why I am not motivated to provide you with links.

Michael

FOARP said...

@Michael - If you describe mainlanders as "perps", and argue in support of shops and restaurants refusing to serve them, I think I can be forgiven for saying that you dislike them. I might find these views of yours distasteful, but I do not think this is "shitting" on you.

I am also at something of a loss to explain how this is related to your statement about "gutting" a DPP land/water planning regime. If this would have done nothing or very little to prevent further drought, why even mention it?

Michael Turton said...

FOARP, since you are obviously incapable of reading, why don't you find another taiwan blog to comment on? Then you could function at your low level to your hearts content, and my quota of mindless spam would be reduced by one. Simple, eh?

Herman said...

Thanks Okami, look forward to reading more comments from you.

Michael, Foarp. I believe you both love Taiwan and want the best for Taiwan. Hope to see in the future you two find some common ground to agree on.

Michael Turton said...

I'm quite sure FOARP loves Taiwan, he just doesn't like me and seems to enjoy dissing me. That being the case, I'm finished with him.

Michael