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Premier unveils policy package to address water shortage


Highlighting the government's resolve to focus on the economy and find solutions to the key issues holding back industrial development, Premier Lai Ching-te today called a press conference to explain the Executive Yuan's plans for securing stable water supplies as part of the government's broader efforts to tackle barriers to investment in Taiwan. Following lengthy discussions on how best to respond to the problems of growing industrial demand for water, poor efficiency in the supply and use of water, uneven regional distribution of water resources and inadequate reserve capacity, the Executive Yuan proposed a four-part policy package to improve the situation through developing new sources of water, preventing loss and stepping up conservation efforts, linking supply networks to allow inter-regional water allocation, and expanding reserve capacity.

To address industry's growing demand for water, the government has adopted twin policies of developing new sources and preventing losses while improving conservation, to include enhanced supply capabilities from reservoirs, water recycling, water conservation and artificial lakes. Once stable and safe supplies have been secured, the government estimates that an additional 1.9 billion metric tons of water per year—or 5.2 million metric tons per day—will be available for industrial use by 2031.

As for the problem of losses in the water supply network and inefficient use, Premier Lai said that a policy of preventing loss and boosting conservation will be pursued, primarily focused on rapid remediation of leaks and losses in the supply network, raising the efficiency of agricultural use and the reuse and recycling of water by industry. The goal for loss prevention is to achieve a nationwide loss rate of 10 percent, down from the current 16 percent. Improving the efficiency of agricultural water use will involve such measures as renovating older irrigation ditches, offering payments to encourage beneficial farming practices, and strengthening irrigation management. Finally, the objective for industrial water use is to raise in-factory water recycling rates from the current 70 percent to 80 percent.

To balance the uneven distribution of water resources across regions, the premier put forward an allocation strategy that will use inter-regional water pipelines to connect supplies, as well as industrial zone water management systems. In northern Taiwan for example, the second phase of the Banxin area water supply improvement project is underway to allow the Feicui Reservoir to supply water to New Taipei City. The water conserved at the Shimen Reservoir in Taoyuan can then be used to supply Hsinchu under another water pipeline project, providing Hsinchu city and county with some 200,000 metric tons of water daily. These two projects will help ensure water reliability in areas north of and including Hsinchu.

As for the lack of emergency water reserves, Premier Lai said a backup strategy will be adopted to make water supplies more resilient and improve reserve effectiveness, thus lowering water shortage risks in the dry season. Northern, southern, eastern Taiwan and offshore islands are all building emergency water supply systems as part of drought preparedness plans.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs said that the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program already includes a range of projects for new resource development, water conservation, water allocation and emergency backup supplies. Accelerating the construction of water infrastructure and increasing the efficiency of agricultural water use will make Taiwan's water supplies more flexible and resilient, ensuring that industrial water supplies remain stable even amid climate change and water scarcity risks.

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