Taiwan’s water reservoirs have dropped to critical levels in May 2021 in what is now the country's worst drought in 56 years. The government has allotted money to explore new sources of water and is using geoengineering planes to dump cloud-seeding chemicals in hopes of triggering rain. The country's central regions are the worst affected, with water reservoirs currently below 10%.
Rainfall in the seven months through February 2021 was less than half the historic average, after no significant rains hit Taiwan in 2020 for the first time in 56 years, according to the government. The country relies on seasonal typhoons to refill reservoirs, but last year no typhoon made landfall.
Taiwan’s last drought occurred in 2015 when its reservoir levels dipped below 50% due to a lack of rain and forced the government to begin rationing water in April.
But compared to 2015, this year's conditions are far more severe, Taiwanese CW reports. This year to date, Taiwan has received less than 800 mm (31.5 inches) of rain, causing the country's reservoir levels to drop down to 25%, the lowest in a decade.
The Sun Moon Lake, a famous tourist destination in Taiwan, has become a dust-colored, cratered lakebed amid record drought in the country.
The dried lakebed of Sun Moon Lake in Nantou county in central Taiwan. Some households in Taiwan are going without running water two days a week after a months-long drought dried up the island's reservoirs and a popular tourist lake— Pixiedust (@PixiedustJtT) May 8, 2021
Credit: Nantou County Government via AP pic.twitter.com/h4KX1z4Udl
This is amazing visualization and incredibly sad. Sun Moon Lake is one my most treasured memories and to see it all dried up is painful.— Brenda J. Wong (@brendajwong) May 10, 2021
(photo from the link below) https://t.co/6knRSxyTXi https://t.co/vW8aJSPxmD pic.twitter.com/1zSyQsxj45
Households in areas under high-level restrictions would go without running water two days every week, including those from Taichung, which has a population of 2.8 million people, as well as Miaoli and Changhua.
"Our business is 90 percent less than last year," said Wai Ying-Shen, chairman of a group of businesspeople who rent boats to visitors.
"The lotus flowers and seeds I planted don’t produce well," Chen Chiu-Lang, a farmer in Tainan, told AP while standing in a dry paddy field.
Economics Minister Wang Mei-Hua advised that while light rains fell in some areas last week, restrictions must be tightened. Other cities, including Hsinchu, are restricting total water supplies for each customer.
The government has allocated financial assistance to explore new sources of water such as groundwater, seawater desalination, wastewater reclamation, and water transportation, but these efforts will not be able to provide immediate relief.
Authorities have also started using military planes to dump cloud-seeding chemicals, hoping to trigger rainfall.
The Central Weather Bureau estimates that drought conditions will remain in place until late May when the seasonal rains bring reservoir levels back to healthy volumes.
Featured image credit: Nantou County Government