When The Water Runs Dry: Expect worldwide consequences from Taiwan’s drought


There’s the old saying, “when america sneezes, the world catches a cold.”  One could now say that when Taiwan suffers a drought, the world runs dry.

Taiwan is currently undergoing its worse drought in decadesDaily rainfall in 2021 is only a fraction of the normal amount.  Soon, it’s going to have worldwide consequences.  Most of the world’s microchip manufacturing takes place here, and it consumes large amounts of fresh water.

Why the world should pay attention to Taiwan’s drought

Taiwan is supposed to be one of the rainiest places in the world – its climate is subtropical in the northern and central regions, and tropical in the south. Typhoons are common in summer and autumn, and it also gets monsoons. It rains so often here that umbrellas are placed at subway stations and businesses for anyone to borrow.

But something unusual happened last year – no typhoon hit the island. And there has been little rain in the past year.

That has plunged Taiwan into its worst drought in 56 years. Many of its reservoirs are at less than 20% capacity, with water levels at some falling below 10%.

At the Baoshan No. 2 Reservoir in Hsinchu County, one of the primary water sources for Taiwan’s $100bn semiconductor industry, the water level is at the lowest it’s ever been – only 7% full.

If this and other reservoirs in Taiwan dry up, it could be detrimental for the global electronics sector, because so many of the products people use are powered by semiconductors – computer chips – made by Taiwanese companies.

Around 90% of the most advanced microchips are manufactured in Taiwan.

Emphasis mine.  Chip manufacturers are recycling water, but that only goes so far.

In 2016, one reservoir was as low as 19%.  Currently, four are at or below 10% and water rationing is happening in many cities.  Sun Moon Lake, one of the major tourist attractions within the country, is now a mudflat, the lake bed is bare.  I find nothing “amusing” in the news story about man’s cell phone found years after falling into the lake.

Typhoon Surigae passed Taiwan this past weekend, the first typhoon to hit the island in a year.  While it did bring some needed rain, it was nowhere near enough.  Taiwan’s annual “plum rains” are nowhere to be seen, another needed source of rainwater.

Penghu (Pescadore Islands) is a county in the west, a small set of islands roughly 40km west of the main island.  It is so small that it doesn’t have enough ground water for its population, so most consumed water is produced by a desalination plant.

After the 2016 drought and other weather extremes of recent years, why didn’t the government begin construction of other desalination plants on the main island?  We are surrounded by ocean.  Things are now so dire that the government has ordered the digging of new wells.  The Taiwan government’s water management plan is looking as inept as Texas’s cold weather plan.

Forget arms sales that Biden is talking about, the US and other countries should be sending desalination machines.  They are direly needed, and this affects every country.  With Taiwan’s economic growth of the past year and an expected 4.7% economic growth for 2021, it’s not as if the country can’t afford to buy them.

 

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    When a rainy area goes dry, that usually leads to multiple and severe wildfires as biomass turns into tinder.

    Unless surrounded by concrete, keep your evac-pack ready!

  2. Numenaster, whose eyes are up here says

    “offering water would be a more effective way to gain control over Taiwan”

    It was a significant element of control over Hong Kong before 1997, too.

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