Saturday, June 25, 2011

Water Woes in Taiwan -- in the Guardian

The Guardian hosted a piece on the island's water woes this week:
The per capita water consumption in Taiwan averages 271 liters (72 gallons) a day, higher than the average daily water usage of Europeans and even Americans. While agriculture continues to be Taiwan's most water-intensive industry, its semiconductor industry requires massive amounts of water and struggles to procure it.

One reason for the high consumption of water is the low rates paid by residents throughout the country – one-tenth the price paid in most of Europe. Citizens have reacted with scorn to calls for increased water rates, even though the proposed increase would mean that families would pay only about $0.27 (17 cents) more per 1000 liters of water. Meanwhile, Taiwan's high tech sector, which has a water recycling rate that varies between 65 and 85%, struggles to stay compliant with the government's water rationing policy.


While the attention paid to Taiwan's water troubles has focused on electronics companies, the agriculture industry consumes 70% of the island's water but contributes only 1.6% to its GDP. The government wants to boost its national food self-sufficiency rate from 32 to 40% , which would make Taiwanese farmers — who receive most of their water for free – an even more powerful political bloc.
This is a topic I've blogged on many times (most notably) and one near and dear to my heart. The Guardian piece is a good pass at the surface, but the hard choice isn't between agriculture and industry but between sustainable development and the construction-industrial state that dominates the nation's domestic political economy.
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Okami said...

Interesting. but one thing I might add is Taiwan's agriculture infrastructure is not handled for more than rice. If they were to switch to a more water deficient-capable crop like millet or sorghum on the west coast would they be able to save more water? The problem is if the local farming infrastructure could handle processing either alternative versus rice. I'm of the opinion they couldn't due to local customs and inertia against change. There are less water-intensive options, but who will use them if everyone decides they are not worth it?

Due to the cultural/culinary imperatives of rice, I don't see things changing in the short term. I do see them changing in the long term due to increase use of the US corn crop for ethanol versus the very real prospect of not having enough water for a proper rice crop. As it stands now feed corn is at $10NT versus $28NT for millet and $14NT for Sorghum by the prices of the local pigeon feed store. I can use any of the 3 in my business, but I can use the cheapest and shockingly (thankfully) it's feed corn. In the US I would be using sorghum and millet mix due to price.

I say it's more an infrastructure problem than an actual water problem. If they changed how they thought versus what must be done no matter what. They would find they could grow a comparative crop with less water and import a comparable staple crop with a lower price. Unfortunately in a social democratic state that doesn't sell. I expect water shortages to get worse in the medium run because of it.

In the central west coast sorghum and millet could be used in the local mushroom(straw and oyster) industry as feedstock rather than burning away the rice straw as is custom.

yankdownunder said...

Fascinating article about repatriation of 100K Japanese-Koreans to North Korea in early 1960s.

I sincerely would like to know what you found fascinating about this article.

I have not finished it yet. Reading it makes me too sick/angry and I have to stop.

"14.Professor Wada Haruki, in a review of Exodus to North Korea, rightly points out that my statement in that book that “the number of Koreans receiving livelihood protection was reduced by about eighty-one thousand” is incorrect."

Why doesn't she tell us where she got incorrect information? Does she just make this up?

richard said...

it seems like the US is standing up to china by supporting the philippines, however, does not dare to do so with taiwan.
hope there is more than currently meets the eye