Water reserves sufficient, insists RID
Chao Phraya dams 'able to meet demand'
Water reserves in reservoirs which feed the Chao Phraya River basin will be sufficient for consumption in the upcoming dry season, deputy chief of the Royal Irrigation Department (RID) Suthep Noipairoj said on Friday.
Mr Suthep said that from Nov 1, the combined water volume in the dams in the river basin stood at 4.2 billion cu/m which will be able to feed tap water production until May, which marks the beginning of the next rainy season.
Currently, there is no salt water intrusion disrupting tap water production.
Mr Suthep added that, so far, this year's drought is not worse than in 1994 when the country faced a severe water shortage. However, he admitted current water reserves across the country are low. Limited rainfall has exacerbated the drought.
Chaowalit Silapathong, deputy-director of the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency, said the water volume in dams and catchments nationwide have continued to recede, particularly in the North and Northeast.
Mr Chaowalit said that between 2013 and 2014 there were 15 million rai of off-season rice paddy fields across the country.
However, the number of such fields declined to 4 million rai from 2014 to 2015 after the government encouraged villagers to refrain from planting off-season rice as water was becoming scarce.
Suphot Tovichakchaikul, director-general of the Water Resources Department (DWR), said the country's water reserve is divided into four parts. More than 70% is for agriculture, 18% for maintaining ecosystems, 3% for industry and tourism, and 2% for tap water production.
According to the DWR, the country's usable water volume is 20.7 billion cu/m.
Mr Suphot, however, said the need for water during the next four months in agricultural areas outside the irrigation zones is calculated to be around 8.3 billion cu/m, which could exceed the maximum amount of usable water.
In order to address the problem, artesian wells will be drilled and water delivered to residents in drought-stricken areas. Water pumps will also be installed.
For a long-term solution, the agency is now working on 15 projects to tackle drought including diverting water from alternative sources to increase water volume in catchments nationwide, Mr Chaowalit said.
He added the government is also drafting six water management strategies during 2015-2026.
The plan includes management of water for consumption, artesian well drilling, canal dredging to cope with flooding, watershed forest rehabilitation and enactment of a draft bill for protecting water sources to be proposed for the cabinet's consideration in March.
Meanwhile, water levels in the Chao Phraya dam in Chai Nat yesterday stood at 14.15 metres above mean sea level which will be sufficient for tap water production in downstream provinces, including Bangkok, for the next six months.
In Wat Sing district of Chai Nat, two pumps were also installed on the banks of Khlong Makham Tao-Uthong yesterday to draw water into the irrigation canal around the clock to produce tap water in neighbouring Hankha district.