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Experts make dire predictions as lower than average rain forecast

national March 22, 2019 01:00

By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
THE NATION

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MOST OF THAILAND will face drought and water shortages this year based on both current water supplies and weather forecasts, but the Royal Irrigation Department (RID) insists that, with good management of resources, we won’t go thirsty.



On the eve of World Water Day, observed today, experts had dire predictions, saying the Ubonrat Dam in Khon Kaen will run dry by mid-April. They advised farmers to forget about planting crops at least until the rainy season officially begins.

The RID’s Smart Water Operations Centre yesterday reported that the water supply in the Chao Phraya River Basin for the rest of the dry season would be only 10 per cent of normal capacity.

The Meteorological Department meanwhile estimated that the rainy season would arrive at least two weeks later than usual.

The RID information database shows seven major dams with reservoirs badly depleted, under 30 per cent of their capacity. Three of them – Ubonrat, Kra Siao and Sirindhorn – are far drier still, at 3, 7 and 8 per cent capacity, respectively.

Reservoirs draining fast

Seree Suparathit, director of Rangsit University’s Centre on Climate Change and Disaster, said it was clear that Thailand is facing serious water shortage and everybody would have to work together to make sure the supply remains sufficient.

“The situation is quite concerning because many large reservoirs are depleting fast, while annual rainfall will also be lower than average,” Seree said.

The area of greatest concern will be the Northeast, where reservoirs are at critically low levels, leaving farmers at risk of severe drought.

“And in the Northeast, I estimate that, by Songkran, people in Khon Kaen will be left drinking what remains at the bottom of the Ubonrat Dam, as the water stored in the reservoir is expected to completely run out in the next few weeks,” Seree warned. 

As for the Chao Phraya River Basin, he expects that even though the water set aside for the dry season will not be enough, people in this part of the country are very likely to have enough for domestic consumption – at least until the rains arrive. 

However, he said, this means that the RID will have to use whatever spare water it has to cover the demand for water before the rainy season, which will possibly result in a lower water budget for the rest of the year. 

“With unusually arid weather conditions this year due to the El Nino phenomenon, we expect Thailand to have less than average rainfall,” he said. “And with less water being stored this rainy season means we are going to see ever more serious drought in the next dry season.” 

Hence, he called on related agencies to start managing water resources carefully and urged farmers not to plant new crops until there is enough rain. 

The RID’s Water Management and Hydrology Bureau director Teerapong Tangsombun, meanwhile, said people in areas with irrigation will have enough water for both domestic consumption and farming, but he too called on farmers to not plant new crops until the rains arrive. 

 

Water for the dry season

National perspective

Earmarked: 23.1 billion cubic metres 

Distributed: 18.3 billion cubic metres |(79 per cent)

Balance: 4.7 billion cubic metres |(21 per cent)

Chao Phraya River Basin

Earmarked: 8 billion cubic metres 

Distributed: 7.1 billion cubic metres (90 per cent)

Balance: 828 million cubic metres (10 per cent)

Source: Royal Irrigation Department

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