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Government mulls higher water rates for certain businesses

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Water authorities said Wednesday that they are considering requiring industries that make heavy use of water to pay higher rates during dry seasons in order to encourage conservation, as parts of Southern Taiwan take measures to shore up water supplies.

The Water Resources Agency is planning to draft new laws to double the rates businesses will have to pay for water once they exceed a certain amount, Wang Yi-feng, an agency section chief, told the Central News Agency (CNA).

The new regulations will aim to encourage businesses to invest in water-saving equipment and will first target heavy users before expanding to cover households, said Wang.

Wang said the agency is drawing on practices already in place in Europe, Japan and China.

China charges 10 times the regular water fees for businesses that use excessive levels. The agency is hoping to produce the draft this year and get it passed into law in the next two years.

According to the CNA, the southern city of Tainan decided Tuesday to cut supplies of water at night in the face of lower-than-average rainfall this year, while the water level at a major reservoir supplying Chiayi City, also in the south of the country, has fallen to 30 percent of capacity.

Taiwan Not the First to Charge for Heavy Water Use

United Daily News reported recently that Taiwan would not be the first to impose a surcharge on heavy users of water. Denmark, the Netherlands, Russia, Germany, Singapore and some cities in China have already imposed some kind of water tax or surcharge.

According to the United Daily News, details are still sketchy but the principle of the proposed “water consumption fee” is to encourage better use of the resource. It is not targeted at factories that use the most water but those that are inefficient.

Under the proposal, a ceiling would be set for each plant and the rate will double for any usage over that volume.

Currently the industrial water rate is NT$11 per cubic meter, the same as it has been for the last 20 years.

In addition to the regulation that would oblige industrial companies to publish their “water footprints,” all new buildings would be required to install water conservation equipment, United Daily News cited the proposal as saying.

The China Times reported that the proposal would be incorporated into the Water Supply Act in the form of an entirely new section dedicated to water conservation.

The revised law is expected to take effect in 2015 or 2016 at the earliest.

For older buildings, the government is considering subsidies for occupants to attach water-saving devices to their washing machines and toilets.

The water surcharge would not apply to households, although it is hoped the residential conservation measures would help cut the daily consumption per capita from the current 269 liters to 250 liters.

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