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Taiwan’s leader tells residents to conserve water as the island faces worst drought in 56 years

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during a press conference at the presidential office in Taipei on January 22, 2020.

Sam Yeh | AFP | Getty Images

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has called on residents to conserve water and prepare for shortages as the island faces a drought, following months of scant rainfall and a lack of typhoons making landfall last year.

In a Facebook post over the weekend, Tsai said that Taiwan did not experience a typhoon in 2020 and faces its most severe water shortage in 56 years. Typhoons typically produce huge amounts of rainfall. She explained that the government set up an emergency response center to deal with the drought.

Tsai added that the government is monitoring water conditions throughout the island and that it will take steps to ensure a stable supply of water for industries and households.

Local reports said last month that the island stepped up nationwide water restrictions and mobilized emergency water resources, including a desalination plant in Hsinchu County, as officials anticipate the dry season will last until May.

Tsai said in her post that a military transport aircraft was dispatched to carry out cloud seeding over the Shimen reservoir in the north — one of the largest water catchment areas in Taiwan. That reservoir is currently at only 49.13% storage capacity, according to the Water Resources Agency. Other reservoirs on the island are also at alarmingly low levels, with Te-Chi reservoir at 10.19% capacity and Tsengwen at 15.22%.

Taiwan’s industries are bracing for potential disruption due to the water shortage.

Chipmakers have reportedly been buying truckloads of water for their foundries in preparation for meeting future water demand. Reuters reported last month that the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chipmaker, was ordering small amounts of water as a “pressure test.” It told the news wire that it had not yet seen any impact on its production.

If the water shortage disrupts Taiwan’s semiconductor sector, it could potentially have global ramifications as the industry faces a chips supply crunch due to a spike in demand for consumer electronics like smartphones, tablets and PCs last year.

The shortage is particularly prominent in the auto industry where carmakers are expected to lose billions of dollars in earnings this year. Semiconductors are crucial components for cars in areas like infotainment systems and more conventional parts such as steering and brakes. Carmakers expect to sell fewer cars due to the supply crunch.

Last week, Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs head, Wang Mei-hua, said that the island’s chipmakers are already producing at full capacity to meet global demand.

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