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Gov't to discuss anti-drought measures

The China Post news staff -- President Ma Ying-jeou will hold a meeting with his top aides in the Presidential Office tomorrow to discuss anti-drought and flood prevention measures after a stricter water rationing scheme was announced yesterday.

At a meeting called yesterday to deal with the country's persistent drought, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) issued an “orange alert” and announced a mandatory enforcement of Phase II water rationing in many parts of the country.

Effective May 18, the water supply for ordinary, non-industrial households in New Taipei City's Linkou District, Taoyuan County, Hsinchu County, and Hsinchu City will be curtailed by 20 percent, while industrial users will get a 5 percent cut in their supply. The same measures become effective for Miaoli County, Taichung City, northern Changhua, Tainan City and Kaohsiung on May 23.

Phase II water rationing in these areas also means water will not be available for fountains, street washing, and other non-essential uses.

Chuanghua County, Yunlin County and the Banqiao-Xinzhuang areas in New Taipei City will come under Phase I rationing and experience a lower nighttime water pressure come May 23.

The rationing system is occasioned by the country's chronic drought, which is exacerbated by water resources companies'reluctance to invest money in the restoration of reservoirs in states of disrepair.

The drought has been the worst since June 2004, according to Wu Yueh-hsi (吳約西), deputy director of MOEA's Water Resources Agency (WRA), who added that if typhoon Aere could bring more than 150 mm of rainfall in the reservoirs' catchment areas, there was still a chance Phase II rationing may be put off.

However, according to the Central Weather Bureau (CWB), Aere is unlikely to dump rain on Taiwan as it is veering off its predicted path and is heading eastward toward the Pacific Ocean. The prospects for May and June are not too good either, according to a CWB forecaster. Isolated showers, however, are expected from May 13 through 15.

Rainfall in March and April was far from satisfactory, and the “plum” rains did not materialize in May, Wu pointed out, adding he was hoping Phase III water rationing would not have to be enforced by the end of June. The purpose of Phase II rationing was to forestall Phase III, Wu said.

According to WRA, the volume of water in the country's major reservoirs, such as the Shimen Reservoir in Taoyuan County, and Paoshan Reservoirs in Hsinchu, and the Mingteh reservoir in Miaoli County, has dropped to only 40 percent of their capacities. Most reservoirs in the south are only 30 percent full.

In addition to the hi-tech industry, the drought also is seriously affecting the country's agriculture.

The first crop of the paddies, now in its earring stage, still needs a lot of water, which has led to fears that some paddy fields may have to be fallowed. But Wu said it was premature to discuss problems related to the second crop.

However, WRA is aware of the problem and will work closely with agricultural departments for solutions, according to news reports.

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 Gov't to discuss anti-drought measures 
In this Friday, May 6, photo, a man strolls along the rim of the Fengshan Reservoir in Kaohsiung. The water level in the reservoir, already dangerously low when the photo was taken, has since dropped further. Residents of Kaohsiung, who rely on this reservoir for their water supply, will have 20 percent less water to use when Phase II rationing becomes effective on May 23. (CNA)

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