Experts warn of water scarcity

national September 19, 2016 01:00

By Pratch Rujivanarom

The Nation

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Low levels at dams could lead to problems if resources not carefully managed

WHILE there is enough water available, resources have to be managed very carefully, as water experts have warned that mismanagement could result in serious problems. 
Sucharit Koontanakulvong, head of water resources engineering at Chulalongkorn University, pointed out that even though the water level in our reservoirs looks positive, the authorities should be careful as the current level of water in dams was still quite low. 
The Bhumibol Dam, one of the country’s major reservoirs, is just about 38 per cent full. Other key dams namely Sirikit, Pasak Jolasid and Kwai Noi, are also less than half full. 
“As predicted there will be more rain throughout September and some places can be hit by flash floods. However, from October onwards, the precipitation will fall and we will enter the dry season,” Sucharit said.
Floods have already hit many provinces such as Phichit, Phitsanulok and Prachin Buri. 
“Hence, in order to prepare for the dry season, we should save as much as we can in the reservoirs, and if any dams are nearly full, we must drain the water into smaller ponds or reservoirs,” Sucharit said. 
He added that the best way to manage water was to have several storage options, and encouraged farmers to dig ponds in order to reduce the risk of water shortage in the dry season. 
“The key to good water management is simple; we just have to collect water in many containers. This practice can also apply to farming management, because this year there will be not enough water for a full-scale dry season rice crop, so farmers must have an alternative source of income and not rely on rice solely,” he said.
Water-management agencies and the Meteorological Department, so far, have indicated that the situation will be favourable until the next rainy season. They say that as rain should fall at an average rate, there should be enough water for domestic consumption. 
Suthep Noipairoj, director general of the Royal Irrigation Department (RID), revealed that there was enough water in the four major Chao Phraya River Basin dams for consumption and irrigation of orchards for the upcoming dry season. 
“Water available in the four major dams is now 5.53 billion cubic metres, which is far higher than the minimum level of 4 billion cubic metres. Plus, we still have more rain to come, so it is unlikely that Thailand will suffer from a severe drought in the next dry season,” Suthep said. 
“We have enough water for domestic consumption and sustaining fruit orchards, though farmers should plant their dry-season crop carefully and pay heed to the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry’s advice.”
The Meteorological Department has predicted there will be slightly more rain than usual, with September getting the most rain and a high chance of tropical storms from the South China Sea. 
As for the El Nino/La Nina situation, the department said the phenomenon officially entered a neutral stage in May, though there is a 50-60 per cent chance that a weaker version of La Nina, signifies unusually cold ocean surface temperatures. will appear in the final quarter of this year.