Water reserves at 4 dams fall to 'critical'
Authorities might not be able to supply water to farmers in the Central Plains again next year, as water levels at four major dams in the region have dropped to critical levels, the Office of National Water Resources (ONWR) said on Monday.
"We won't be able to supply farmers in the dry season next year if there isn't enough water," ONWR secretary-general Somkiat Prajamwong said at a press briefing about the water shortage on Monday.
"We are doing our best to preserve what water we have left in our dams and underground, so we can use it in cases of emergency."
Water reserves at four major dams in Central Plains, namely Bhumibol, Sirikit, Pasak Jolasid and Kwae Noi Bamrung Daen dams, have hit critical levels. Bhumibol Dam in Tak -- the country's largest -- currently has only 3.9 billion cubic metres of water (m³), or just enough to meet its minimum reserve requirements.
The shortage is a pressing concern as these dams irrigate the country's largest rice cultivation area, said Mr Somkiat.
Without rain to replenish reserves, Bhumibol Dam could only release 115 million m³ of water, Sirikit Dam would be able to release 417 million m³, while the Kwae Noi Bamrung Daen and Pasak Jolasid dams would discharge about 99 million m³ and 89 million m³ of water downstream, respectively.
The discharges -- totalling just over 700 million m³ -- will not be able to meet the demands from households and agricultural operations in the region, which are estimated to be about 12 billion m³ between November and May next year.
Water levels across the four dams are less than half of what they were last year. As such, Mr Somkiat said, the government may not be able to supply water for irrigation purposes next year.
If water reserves remain low next year, farmers along the Chao Phraya River basin won't be able to use water from the dams' irrigation systems for a second consecutive year, the secretary-general said.
As farmers along the Central Plains have become accustomed to planting two to three rice crops per year, the water shortage will have an impact on farmers' livelihoods in the area.
Authorities are now pinning their hopes on monsoon rains -- which are expected to peak in about two months' time -- to replenish depleted dams and reservoirs across the country.