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Monday, May 11

Drought in Taiwan

This story has been around least since the first week in April, but The Los Angeles Times picked up on it yesterday in a report Ralph Jennings filed from Taipei, Taiwan aims to rein in water use amid unusual drought.

BCD -- Before California's Drought -- the report might have languished on an editor's desk, but these days LAT is very hip to droughts and similarities between California's and others. In this case much of Taiwan's water emergency comes down to the same dreary litany of bad water management practices found in California and countries around the world.  
Then one day a country's luck runs out.  A weather-related drought strikes, the bad water management kicks into gear, and practically overnight a bad spell of weather mushrooms into a catastrophe.  
At least Taiwan's government had a little lead time to prepare so at this point, at least, they've dodged a panic in the island nation.  That's not much good news, however:
A subtropical Pacific island, Taiwan normally gets a generous 98 inches of rain a year, keeping water prices so low that people seldom think twice about taking a long hot shower, let alone flushing the toilet.
But that relaxed relationship with water has dried up since February as Pacific Ocean temperatures have locked Taiwan into one of its most severe droughts in decades, prompting rationing last month in areas of the heavily populated west coast.

In two cities and a county in northern Taiwan, 1.16 million households began receiving tap water just five days a week, restrictions that were lifted Wednesday for just over a week after a daylong storm.
A cold, dry band of air over the Pacific Ocean east of Taiwan kept rainfall to 65 inches last year, the island's Water Resources Agency says. That 67-year low and a dry winter have prompted Taiwan's government to begin rationing water on April 8. Those restrictions are saving 212,000 tons of water a day, according to news reports.
The industrial hub of Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second-largest city, with a population of 2.8 million, is threatened with water rationing. In other regions, pressure is reduced at night and factories are recycling more water or cutting back on its use for air conditioning, water agency spokesman Lai Chien-hsin said.
Taiwan is grappling with issues familiar to those in California, which is in its fourth year of drought. Gov. Jerry Brown last month announced the state's first mandatory water restrictions.
Taiwanese officials have been warning of possible rationing since last year, when they realized rainfall would be below normal, so the island had time to prepare.
The report goes on to discuss water conservation tactics the Taiwanese are using, then lays on the really bad news:
Taiwan's drought has prompted the government to reexamine its water management practices as it faces criticism over leaky pipes and poorly built or inadequately maintained reservoirs that let water drain into the mud. Relatively low water rates leave the government with inadequate funds to fix pipes or dredge reservoirs [...]
Taipei is now scrambling to scare up the lucre for the fixes. See Jennings' report for details including the estimated amount of water they've lost to leaks, which for some reason they describe in tonnage instead of acre feet. Heh.  

The rainfall shortage could be short-lived. But Taiwan is a very different place in terms of population and industrialization than it was the last time it was hit with a severe drought. So the present drought is a wake-up call.

The bottom line for Taiwan is the same as for other drought-stricken countries and regions around the world:  It all depends on the weather. 
In the immortal words of an earlier California governor: You can't conserve what you don't have.

Now for a new feature at Pundita blog:

Annoying Google Maps

The Taiwan Strait or Formosa Strait, also known as the Black Ditch ... is a 180 kilometres (110 mi) wide strait separating the island of Taiwan from the Asian mainland. The strait is part of the South China Sea and connects to the East China Sea to the north. (WIkipedia) Guangzhou is closer to Taiwan than any other major mainland Chinese city. (Wikipedia)

Guangzhou, not to be confused with Quanzhou, which is the largest city in Fujian Province. If it's the largest city, why doesn't the second Google map show it? And why doesn't the first Google map show Guangzhou?

I got the maps when I used Google's search engine to find the major Chinese cities nearest Taiwan. 

You see the reasoning that prompted my question; right?  If  "Pacific Ocean temperatures have locked Taiwan into one of its most severe droughts in decades," how is that affecting nearby regions of coastal China?  It might not be affecting those regions, of course.  It would take research to nail down the answers.

Don't look at me; I already did my Over and Above public service bit this month with the country by country searches for drought in southern Africa.  

What the blogosphere needs is a drought version of the Weather Channel website.  Go down the list daily and plug in changes region by region, and keep updating.  

Is that too much to ask for?  

And no, I refuse.  Not even for pay.  It would be a full-time job for a pretty large team.



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