The Taiwan Water Pipe
A video of a Taiwanese man being pulled out of a water pipe has touched the hearts of many. But it has also raised public concern over a number of issues.
Taiwan is facing a water shortage problem, as the island’s population consumes water at an alarming rate. To deal with this, the government is drawing water from wells and seawater desalination plants, but the situation could get worse over time.
It’s a relic
Taiwan is one of the wettest countries in Asia, but it also has one of the highest water shortage rates. Its water supply is increasingly dependent on typhoon events, and climate change could also exacerbate the problem.
While this situation is affecting the rest of Asia, Taiwan is particularly vulnerable as its industries rely heavily on water to operate. For example, the semiconductor industry consumes 20% of Taiwan’s water.
The recent drought has prompted Chinese media outlets to focus more on the human and environmental factors behind the shortage, which has sparked some domestic political commentary. The PRC’s party-state media has picked up on a number of narrative themes, such as Taiwan’s “five shortages” (water, electricity, people, professional talent and land) and its dependence on China for essential resources and economic growth. These narratives reflect China’s desire to maintain its dominance over the island. They also reveal Beijing’s attempt to use its cross-Strait infrastructure projects to reinforce its legitimacy and to deter Taiwanese dissent.
It’s a tourist attraction
The Taiwan water pipe is an impressive feat of engineering. It is a steel pipeline that traverses the length of Longhu Lake in Fujian, supplying water to both mainland China and the island of Kinmen. It may be a little bit of an eyesore to see, but it is worth a visit if you are in the area. The best place to view it is Tianmu zhuang gyao, a 1.8 mile (4,000 step) trek that is easily navigated from Taipei city center. Located in the Tianmu district of New Taipei, this trail is one of Pacer’s most popular walking routes and was recently named as the top rated walking route in New Taipei by the readers of Pacer magazine. You can find more trails like this in the Pacer app.
It’s a safety hazard
Taiwan is an island in the western Pacific Ocean that has been prone to typhoons and monsoons. Typhoons can cause significant flooding, which in turn depletes water resources.
To deal with these challenges, the government has built new infrastructure to capture and store water from the island’s surrounding waters. For example, a seawater desalination plant in Hsinchu can treat 13,000 metric tonnes of water a day.
But even these facilities can only make a small dent in the need to extract more water from other parts of the island. The semiconductor industry, which consumes 20% of Taiwan’s water, requires an additional 130,000 tons per day.
This is because the country has been dealing with a severe drought that started last fall. The dry spell forced the government to ration domestic water for two days a week, which in turn hurt both its economy and its reputation.
It’s a disaster
Taiwan is vulnerable to water shortages and has a huge underlying problem of water consumption. Its low prices mean Taiwanese people often take water for granted.
Its agricultural sector is particularly vulnerable to a water shortage because of its heavy dependence on water for irrigation, which can be costly to resupply. In 2021, the worst drought in 30 years prompted the government to ration water to farmers and shut down agricultural activities.
The drought forced farmers to leave their land fallow, which negatively impacted their brand and threw off clientele. It also disrupted their businesses, which are a key driver of the island’s economy.
But there are plans to tackle the issue in the short term, such as building more seawater desalination plants, which are more efficient than relying on groundwater. But these will not be sufficient to overcome the island’s overconsumption, which is a major factor in its vulnerability to water shortages. Ultimately, Taiwan needs to find an alternative source of water for its large population and its two main economic drivers: the semiconductor industry and agriculture.
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