Taiwan has started water supply restrictions as it struggles to cope with the worst drought in 56 years.
From Tuesday, four counties and cities – including Taichung and Changhua in central Taiwan, Miaoli in the west and part of Hsinchu in the north – became the first local areas to have their water supply suspended two days a week, according to the island’s economics minister Wang Mei-hua.
“Because of the drought, the government authorities need to impose water rationing measures in those areas,” Wang said, adding that the water restrictions would affect about 1.06 million residents in the drought-stricken zones.
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But she said some science parks and other industrial sites, including those in Taichung and Hsinchu which have access to groundwater or a specially allocated supply, would be spared from the rationing for now, but they must cut consumption by 15 per cent.
Local media said many big-name chip makers, including the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, had already made contingency plans for rationing. TSMC is reported to have 200 water trucks at the ready. Chip and display production requires massive amounts of ultrapure water.
Economics ministry officials said the government would not rule out imposing water rationing in other parts of the island, including Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan, if drought conditions did not improve.
Since February, central Taiwan and parts of the south and west have faced a historic water shortage mainly because of low rainfall last year when no typhoons made landfall on the island, according to the Taiwan Water Resources Agency.
Major reservoirs in those areas had record low water levels, resulting in limited supply, the agency said.
The water level in Sun Moon Lake, a popular tourist attraction in central Taiwan, dropped to a historic low of about 700 metres, with supply stations pumping only muddy water, local media reported.
On Tuesday, Yuchi township chief Liu Chi-fan led officials and residents in a ritual at Wufeng Pier on Sun Moon Lake to pray for rain. In a Facebook post, he asked those planning to attend to self-cleanse spiritually and physically before the ritual to “show respect” to the rain god.
The rationing has prompted residents in central Taiwan to stockpile water. Local stores say sales of buckets and water towers have grown 200 per cent.
Entrepreneurial types are capitalising on the water restrictions by organising “bath-taking” trips for affected residents to attend night markets and shower at contracted hotels in neighbouring counties not yet affected by the rationing, according to the Taipei-based United Daily News.
Taiwan last had water rationing in 2015 when parts of the island had restricted supply for 61 days.
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