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Water Shortage Looms for Taiwan Science Park

Lower-than-normal rainfall around a major technology manufacturing area in Taiwan, the Hsinchu Science Park, has prompted the government to cut water pressure at night and study more stringent measures going forward.

The water level in one reservoir that supplies the science park has fallen to 36 percent of capacity, while another is at 47 percent, according to science park management. Authorities would usually expect levels between 72 percent and 82 percent of capacity at this time of year.

On March 10 the water utility began reducing water pressure for six hours per night when non-industrial consumers in the surrounding county normally keep their taps off. The pressure drop will reduce wasted water.

"We haven't stopped providing water. It's just a reduction in pressure," said Chien Chen-yuan, an engineer with the government's Water Resources Agency. "For the moment we will keep monitoring things."

But the government may consider stronger measures if rainfall of just 30 percent of average so far this year continues through April.

Taiwan seldom faces water shortages. The tropical island normally gets plentiful rainfall, and last year an excess of it triggered a landslide in northern Taiwan, covering a section of freeway and burying several cars.

Should the shortfall of rain continue, a likely next step would be diverting water to the 450-company science park from two neighboring counties, the water agency said.

A drop in water pressure should not affect science park factory operations, said Fang Wen-yen, an economist with KGI Securities in Taipei. Further steps would have an impact, she said.

Taiwan tech firms have faced water shortages in the past, when companies have had to truck in water to ensure a steady supply. In late 2009, a drought prompted water restrictions in the island's south..

Rainfall near the Hsinchu Science Park, known as Taiwan's Silicon Valley, returned to normal last year, the water agency said.

Taiwanese flat-panel display maker AU Optronics, which has factories in the park, said on Thursday it had not been notified of the water pressure change. Park tenant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) said it had seen no impact.

TSMC, the world's biggest semiconductor foundry, makes chips for global clients including Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments. AU Optronics manufactures screens for LCD TVs, computer displays, laptops and handhelds.

Both companies say they recycle as much as 90 percent of their water for industrial use. Laws in Taiwan require companies of their scale to reuse supplies.

The science park uses about 130,000 tons of water per day, according to its website.

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