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Shimen Dam water shortage shows no sign

The water level at Shimen Dam yesterday morning measured 224.3 meters, just 4.3 meters above the critical level of 220 meters, said the director of the North Water Resources Bureau, which operates the dam.

Lee Tieh-min also said the bureau and the Council of Agriculture (COA) have come to a consensus that agriculture activities in areas covered by the dam should be temporarily suspended in the interests of water conservation.

Shimen Dam each day provides 1.4 million tons of water for residence and industrial use and 1.8 million for agriculture purposes in Taoyuan County and parts of Taipei County.

The reservoir also provides 55,000 tons of water each day for the Hsinchu Science-Based Industrial Park (HSIP), Lee said.

Altogether, the amount of water outflow translates to a water-level descent of 50 centimeters each day, he stated, adding the water reserve will reach the critical level in ten days, based on that calculation.

"This is the most severe water shortage we've seen since 1994," Lee said.

And the weather shows no signs of relenting. The amount of rainfall in February was only 30 percent of its annual average, and the Central Weather Bureau predicts insignificant amounts of rainfall in March, he said.

Given such, the bureau will work in conjunction with COA in implementing a farming-suspension plan to conserve water.

Under the agreement, COA would compensate farmers for losses resulting from the suspension.

"We'll begin talking with representative from the farming communities to determine an exact amount of compensation," Lee said, adding that a remedy of NT$46,000 per hectare will "serve as a basis" for the talks.

Meanwhile, Lee said Shimen Dam will continue to provide water for HSIP, which will suffer more from the water shortage as it is Taiwan's premier high-tech manufacturing and R&D base.

Lee said HSIP companies get most of their water supplies from the nearby Yunghoshan and Paoshan Reservoirs, which are running low on water as well.

Water is greatly needed by high-tech companies, especially semiconductor foundries, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and United Microelectronics Corp., which consume water and electricity heavily.

Companies like TSMC and UMC make integrated chips for world-class personal computers, notebook computers and telecommunications device makers. A halt in the production would have severe impact in the global high-tech industry.

Officials at HSIP said the current water shortage would not have a significant impact on companies, as most of them are producing at 50 percent of their production capacity.

However, if the water shortage continues, companies will have no water to use after mid-March.

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