Rain will save Bangkok from tap-water disruption, waterworks boss says

national July 08, 2015 01:00

By The Nation,Reuters

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METROPOLITAN Waterworks Authority governor Thanasak Watanathana yesterday downplayed the possibility of a tap-water shortage in Bangkok due to the severe drought.



“We believe rain will arrive next month,” he said, adding that the MEA had enough water to last a month.
The Waterworks Authority produces about 5.2 million cubic metres of tap-water a day for millions of residential, business and industrial customers.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday that if the greater Bangkok area really faced a water shortage, artesian wells would be dug. “That’s our contingency plan,” the PM said. 
Thanasak was quoted earlier as saying Bangkok’s tap-water supply could be used up in a month, while the country waits for long-overdue rains to replenish sources depleted by drought and threatened by seawater “creep”.
“The risk is serious only if there is no rain. But it is forecast that we will get rainfall next month,” he stressed yesterday. 
The severity of the drought is now clear in various parts of the Kingdom, with water levels hitting record lows in the major Bhumibol and Sirikit dams.
Farmland is also getting parched, not just in the Northeast but also in the Chao Phraya River basin, traditionally the country’s rice basket.
With several watercourses running dry, canal banks and land near canals has subsided, while some nearby roads have cracked, leaving large holes in the surface. 
Such incidents are happening even though the government has asked farmers to postpone growing rice in order to conserve water.
Prayut yesterday thanked farmers who had cooperated with this request.
He that said without rain, it was impossible for his government to find adequate water supply, but such a problem was not unique to Thailand. 
“Several other countries have also had this problem,” he pointed out. 
The premier said he had already instructed the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to dig 500 artesian wells in affected provinces in order to help people cope with the ongoing drought.
 
Salinity problem
Asked about the current situation, Thanasak acknowledged yesterday that MEA facilities that use water from the Chao Phraya were facing problems. 
Water volume from upstream was not big enough to keep seawater at bay during high tides, which meant the salinity of the river’s water became too high for its waterworks, he explained.
“So, we check and take in water [from the river] only during other times of the day,” he said. 
But the governor said the MEA was still able to draw water from the Mae Klong River near Bangkok.
Thanasak advised all users to be economical with water at this time, and urged industrial users to stock some water in reserve. 
He said that if the water shortage became serious, the MEA would advise people to stock up on drinking water. 
As the MEA struggles to keep tap-water services in greater Bangkok going, Thanasak said he believed large-scale rainwater collection should be part of the solution. 
“We have floods every year, and we waste that water by letting it flow into the sea. So how can we save some of that water to solve problems that arise during the dry season?” he said.
“They are releasing so much rainwater into the sea. It’s more than we have in our entire dam system. Even if we could save 10 per cent of it, that would be a lot.” 
On Monday, an official said that dams crucial for MEA operations might need to reduce their water-discharge volume even further. 
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