Water shortage 'will hit after Songkran'
Conserving water must be made an urgent national priority to cope with a water shortage crisis expected to hit Thailand after Songkran if precautions are not taken, a consultancy firm says.
Water stocks in four major reservoirs which are the main sources of water in the Chao Phraya River basin currently stand at half of what they were in the same period last year, said Chawalit Chantararat, chief executive officer for the international sector of TEAM Group of Companies.
As of Sunday, he said, the combined water level in the Bhumibol, Sirikit, Kwai Noi Bamrung Dan and Pasak Jolasid dams stood at about 3.6 billion cubic metres, compared with 6.5 billion cu/m this time last year.
So if people, especially householders, do not sharply reduce water usage, they will experience salt water intrusion in the Chao Phraya and Thachin rivers after the Songkran festival in mid-April, which will consequently affect farming and tap water production, said Mr Chawalit.
A more emotive water-saving campaign is needed to make people see the problem clearly because now "what they see is water whenever they turn on taps", he noted.
He suggested the government announce drought and possible water shortages as a national priority to increase awareness.
If each person in Bangkok can reduce their daily water usage by 20%, the country will save up to one million cu/m of water, he said.
This amount of water can be used to help farmers in rice-belt provinces or be kept in reservoirs during the dry season, which will last until May, he said.
"Farmers should not be left to bear the burden alone," Mr Chawalit said, referring to recent pressure after the government implemented a policy November last year to limit their rice crops, which require lots of water.
However, the policy did not work effectively because many farmers could not shift to alternative crops.
These farming areas cover more than 2 million rai, while the government can supply water to only 330,000 rai of farmland, he said.
If the government cannot handle the situation, which could lead to severe quarrels over water usage next month, and is consequently forced to allocate more water, it will be put at risk of lacking enough fresh water to push out salty water, Mr Chawalit said.
So far the most concrete state water-saving campaign outcome was the move to encourage people to save at least 10% of water in return for cheaper water bills last year.
More than 420,000 people in Bangkok, Nonthaburi and Samut Prakan joined the campaign, helping reduce consumption by nearly 9 million cu/m, said Metropolitan Waterworks Authority governor Thanasak Watanathana.
In another development, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has worked to establish 4,000 artesian wells to deal with the drought crisis, saying the ministry will closely monitor the effectiveness and transparency of the project as many complaints have been made.
Gen Surasak Karnjanarat, minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, said in a news conference that the ministry has already prepared a map of artesian wells to identify the exact areas that need to have the wells for daily water consumption as the first priority.
He said Kamphaeng Phet, Nakhon Sawan, Phichit and Uthai Thani provinces were the top priority.