Governments scramble to alleviate water shortages . . .
On Thursday afternoon, nearly 10 per cent of Taiwan’s residents lost power after an equipment failure at a power plant. Plant officials previously warned that the ongoing drought was causing stress on the energy supply. While Taiwan’s water resources are usually abundant, the abnormal lack of typhoon rains in 2020, combined with a 35 per cent decline in precipitation in 2021, led to water reservoirs dropping to alarming levels, with many now below five per cent capacity. Water rationing measures were imposed in some cities and counties in April, depriving residents of water for two days a week to raise awareness about water consumption. The central government is also exploring new water sources and other solutions to mitigate the crisis, such as seawater desalination, water transportation, and cloud seeding.
Rationed water supply poses economic, health concerns . . .
The water shortages raise economic concerns in Taiwan and abroad due to their impact on the island’s water-intensive semiconductor industry. Taiwan is one of the world's leading manufacturers of electronic chips, essential for smartphones and automobiles, and water stress in Taiwan could disrupt the global supply chain. Taiwan’s largest chipmaker, TSMC, is subject to a 15 per cent cut in water usage, but the company has so far managed to cope by transporting and recycling water. But if the shortage persists, it could pose more serious risks. The government’s decision to prioritize water supply for the tech sector poses a moral dilemma, as the agricultural sector also faces significant challenges. Water shortages could also impact the health-care sector, which is on high alert after COVID-19 cases surged in Taiwan this week, raising fear of a major outbreak.
Need for long-term solutions . . .
While hopes that seasonal rains will replenish Taiwan’s water reservoirs in late May, concerns of recurring shortages remain due to the impacts of climate change. Taiwan relies on annual typhoons to replenish its water reservoirs, but national climate experts say that climate change will reduce the number of typhoons in the region. Observers are hopeful that the drought will prompt longer-term solutions. While addressing climate change is one avenue, water prices may offer another solution. Residents of Taiwan have some of the lowest water prices globally, leading to high water consumption. Experts say that adjusting the cost of water to match its value may help mitigate similar crises in the future.
- The Guardian: Parched Taiwan prays for rain as Sun Moon Lake is hit by drought
- South China Morning Post: Taiwan’s worst drought in decades adds pressure to global chip shortage
- The Washington Post: Widespread blackouts hit Taiwan after power plant trips