Severe drought conditions in the capital of Thailand, Bangkok have drained water supplies since June 2015, and the city is now in danger of running out of drinking water in the next 30 days. The reservoirs of tap water are running low, severely affecting the country's agriculture.
With about 5.2 million cubic meters of drinking water produced per day, Bangkok metropolitan area holds over 14 million people. Most of it's water supplies come from the Chao Phraya river, which runs into the Gulf of Thailand. During drought conditions, the river is subject to seawater upstream inflow, which can turn the river saline. One of the issues is that the local water company doesn't have the necessary equipment to purify salty water.
"Some days the saltwater increases, we don't intake the water from the Chao Phraya River. We stop and use the water from the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority stocks of water in canals. We can stop intake for 3 hours," said Thanasak Watanathana, governor of the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority.
Drought causes water shortage in Thailand, affecting crop output. Video credit: CCTV+
Current drought conditions in Thailand are the worst in over a decade. A distinctive drop in the underground water levels, have left 88 canalside road sections in Pathum Thani province cracked and subsided.
In order to try to secure the water supplies for agriculture in provinces and drinking water supplies in Bangkok, the government has asked farmers to stop planting rice since October 2014.
Despite these precautions, the water levels in three key reservoirs that flow into the Chao Phraya River are still critically low. To save water supplies, in the case of shortage, the waterworks officials have asked the residents to store 60 liters of water.
The people have been asked to save as much water as possible, and use it sparingly, however, this measure didn't come to fruition, as the price of water is only 8.50 baht ($0.25) per 1 000 liters. "It's too cheap, so people don't feel the need to conserve. It has been this price since July 1999. It's probably the biggest city with the cheapest water in the world," concluded Thanasak.
"Right now, there is only enough water in the dams to distribute for about 30 more days – if it doesn't rain," Thanasak told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
While, normally 8 billion cubic meters of drinking water is collected in the three reservoirs, in November 2014, the total equaled 5 billion cubic meters. On Monday, July 06, only 660 million cubic meters of water was left, according to the Royal Irrigation Department.
The Metropolitan Waterworks Authority plans to invest 45 billion baht ($1.3 billion) to increase water production and storage in the period of the next seven years. Also, a 30-year scheme, to forecast water demand, identify the sources of drinking water and protect against the intrusion of salty water is currently being discussed. A lot of rainfall water is being wasted, as it is drained into the sea. Rainwater collection on a large scale, could be a part of the solution to the water supplies shortage.
"We also have floods every year, and we waste that water by letting it out to the sea. So how can we save some of that water to solve the problems during the dry season? They are releasing so much rainwater into the sea. It's more than we have in our entire dam system. Even if we could save 10 percent of it, it would be a lot, " Thanasak said.
Featured image: Bangkok running out of water. Credit: CCTV+.
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