Save water, dept urges as El Nino looms

national March 27, 2014 00:00

By Pongphon Sarnsamak
The Nation

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Irrigation agency warns of severe drought next year due to less rainfall

The Royal Irrigation Department (RID) has urged members of the public and farmers to be conservative in the use of water, as Thailand may face a severe drought next year due to the El Nino phenomenon, which is expected to reduce rainfall.
The volume of water reserves in the major dams would not be enough for use this year, Thongplew Kongjun, director of the Department’s Office of Water Management and Hydrology, said.
He explained that the Department this year is expected to use 5.3 billion cubic metres of water from three major dams during the dry season. But the water reserves that it has used have exceeded the planby 600 million cubic metre. 
Additionally, the Department expects rains to start later – in the middle of May – than normal, which means Thailand would not have water reserves for this year and next year.
“We must enter into the save mode,” he said.
“Hopefully, farmers will not start planting their rice farms during this season. If they don’t, then we will have enough water,” he added.
Citing the weather forecast model, Maytee Mahayosananta, director of the Meteorological Department’s Central Weather Forecast Division, said Thailand this year would encounter the El Nino phenomenon, which will reduce rainfall.
“The consequences of El Nino would be the worst next year,” he said.
Because of this phenomenon, Thailand would not have enough water during this year and next year, he warned. 
The volume of water this year would be less than that in 2013.
Meanwhile, Suwattana Jitraladakorn, chairman of the Engineering Institute of Thailand’s water-resources engineering sub-panel, said the amount of water in the Chao Phraya River this year is lower than normal.
The water reserves in each of the major dams in the Chao Phraya River basin – Bhumibhol, Sirikit and Kaewnoi – was only about only 20 per cent of their total retention capacity.
He explained that the water reserves in these three dams were low because the authorities had discharged a large volume of water in 2012.
Also, he found that the number of rice farms this year had grown over 200 per cent.
Suwattana was also worried about the mixing of salt water in the Chao Phraya River basin due to the high tides.
He said the situation would be worse if there was not enough fresh water to force the salt water back into the sea.
“We found that there was not enough water from small canals flowing into the Chao Phraya to force the salt water back into the sea,” he said.
To ensure that the salt-water encroachment will not affect the production of pipe water, and the agricultural sector, Thongplew said the Deparment has prepared a plan to drain water from several canals to force out the salt water. The Department will drain water from the Chao Phraya dam, Rama VI dam, Mae Klong River, Tachin River, Klong Yong canal, and Mahasawas canal.
“The situation of salt water encroachment has now returned to normal,” he said.

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