Taiwan introduces further water restrictions amid drought, potentially worsening chip...

midian182

Posts: 6,672   +59
Staff member
In brief: Think the global chip shortage crisis couldn't get any worse? Think again. Taiwan's worst drought in decades is showing no signs of abating, leading to authorities introducing further restrictions in areas including two major science parks—home to major semiconductor and display companies such as TSMC.

Taiwan is facing its worst drought in 56 years after a drop in rainfall combined with a lack of typhoons in 2020; it's usually hit by three or four tropical storms annually. Minister of Economic Affairs, Wang Mei-hua, recently said the dry spell has not yet impacted TSMC or other companies, but with a typical semiconductor manufacturing facility using two to four million gallons of ultra-pure water per day, it's a precarious situation.

As the drought worsens, officials have issued Taiwan's first red alert on water supply in six years. Authorities will cut water supplies to industrial users in the central counties of Taichung, Miaoli, and Changhua by 15% from April 6, reports Bloomberg. Additionally, tap water will be suspended in the areas for two days per week, but this won't apply to industries.

"The scope of the water-saving plan does include the science parks in Taichung and Miaoli. We would advise those companies that are within the scope that could face a two-day water-outage to reserve water or mobilize water trucks in advance," said Wang Yi-feng, deputy director-general of Taiwan's Water Resources Agency, told Nikkei Asia.

TSMC and Micron both have operations in Taichung. The former said it would increase the amount of water it uses from tanker trucks and that the restrictions won't affect operations, while the latter declined to comment as it is now in a "quiet period."

AUO, Micron, TSMC, and Winbond have fabs in Taichung. Innolux and GlobalWafers have fabs in Miaoli, and Phison has a factory in the country, reports Tom's Hardware. If the drought does start impacting manufacturing at these plants, it will exacerbate the global chip shortage, further reducing availability and pushing up prices of GPUs and displays.

"Like [Innolux], we also have signed contracts with water truck companies, but we see that as the last resort," said Paul Peng, chairman of AUO. "We are prepared. We have a water storage facility underneath each of our plants in Taiwan. Some of the plants have stored up to 10 days of water supply [for our use]."

Taiwan previously said that its tech industry has enough water to last until May. Let's hope the situation is resolved by then.

Center image credit: Romix Image

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SirDigby

Posts: 788   +587
I feel like the companies that use these suppliers should chip in to help - sending some water aid to ensure their own supplies stay up. A gesture of goodwill, and also to the citizens of Taiwan, many of whom rely on the industry, or suffer water shortages as a result of prioritisation for the industry, should receive water aid too.
 

gabelogan1324

Posts: 18   +11
I feel like the companies that use these suppliers should chip in to help - sending some water aid to ensure their own supplies stay up. A gesture of goodwill, and also to the citizens of Taiwan, many of whom rely on the industry, or suffer water shortages as a result of prioritisation for the industry, should receive water aid too.
sounds good in theory - wonder how that would work in practice!
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 1,140   +1,269
TechSpot Elite
Why doesn't Taiwan have a desalination plant? If I was governing an island surrounded by ocean, I would have built AT LEAST one to use seawater when needed. The fact that Taiwan is hella rich only makes it even more absurd that they haven't already done this.

This just gets more and more stupid by the day. Any kind of distillery could even be used. It's not exactly rocket science we're talking about here. Taiwan not having a desalination plant is like Texas not winterizing their power grid. Sure, you might not need it all that often, but when you do, it stops your entire state/country from coming to a standstill.

What is it these days with countries not having contingency plans designed to counteract foreseeable emergencies?
 
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Endarial

Posts: 33   +36
Why doesn't Taiwan have a desalination plant? If I was governing an island surrounded by ocean, I would have built AT LEAST one to use seawater when needed. The fact that Taiwan is hella rich only makes it even more absurd that they haven't already done this.

This just gets more and more stupid by the day. Any kind of distillery could even be used. It's not exactly rocket science we're talking about here. Taiwan not having a desalination plant is like Texas not winterizing their power grid. Sure, you might not need it all that often, but when you do, it stops your entire state/country from coming to a standstill.

What is it these days with countries not having contingency plans designed to counteract foreseeable emergencies?
Here is a link to an article that talks about plans for a desalination plant to be built, as well as why Taiwan is always running low on water. I will note that the the article is from 2018.

https://international.thenewslens.com/article/94847

Here is one more from just a few months ago.

 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 1,140   +1,269
TechSpot Elite
Here is a link to an article that talks about plans for a desalination plant to be built, as well as why Taiwan is always running low on water. I will note that the the article is from 2018.

https://international.thenewslens.com/article/94847

Here is one more from just a few months ago.

Yes, I did see those. My post was "Why don't they have it already?". I mean, it's not like Taiwan is poor. Previous governments were just stupid and/or greedy (which is why I compared them to Texas' state government) because there's no other reason why they wouldn't have already built one. They've had droughts in the past, not as bad as this (thanks Global Warming) but bad enough that it should have prompted them to build the plant decades ago.

And yet, they only have "plans" to build it now. It's just bad governance.
 
Why doesn't Taiwan have a desalination plant? If I was governing an island surrounded by ocean, I would have built AT LEAST one to use seawater when needed. The fact that Taiwan is hella rich only makes it even more absurd that they haven't already done this.

This just gets more and more stupid by the day. Any kind of distillery could even be used. It's not exactly rocket science we're talking about here. Taiwan not having a desalination plant is like Texas not winterizing their power grid. Sure, you might not need it all that often, but when you do, it stops your entire state/country from coming to a standstill.

What is it these days with countries not having contingency plans designed to counteract foreseeable emergencies?
As a Taiwanese, I can tell you exactly why the government doesn't want to build at least one desalination plant. As you mentioned, our country is a small island surrounded by the ocean, so every inch of land worth a gold. In terms of the desalination plant, it actually requires power plants, landfills, and other plants to support it. But the fact is that no one wants to live beside those plants. Not to mentions, Taiwan is too small to build more plants for now. So far the solution that the government provides is to remove silt in reservoirs as much as possible. (Sorry for my English. My native language is not English)
 

Jimster480

Posts: 120   +111
As a Taiwanese, I can tell you exactly why the government doesn't want to build at least one desalination plant. As you mentioned, our country is a small island surrounded by the ocean, so every inch of land worth a gold. In terms of the desalination plant, it actually requires power plants, landfills, and other plants to support it. But the fact is that no one wants to live beside those plants. Not to mentions, Taiwan is too small to build more plants for now. So far the solution that the government provides is to remove silt in reservoirs as much as possible. (Sorry for my English. My native language is not English)
Makes alot of sense. Land there is extremely expensive. However if they did build a plant then the country wouldn't ever worry about a water shortage.
 

Ultraman1966

Posts: 158   +61
Makes alot of sense. Land there is extremely expensive. However if they did build a plant then the country wouldn't ever worry about a water shortage.
Desalination plants require a lot of resources to run as eluded to above. We will need them due to climate change and continually increase in demands. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/22/climate/desalination-water-climate-change.html
A better idea would be if these manufacturing plants were able to optimise and recycle that water more. Getting through 2-4 million gallons of pure water PER DAY is just insane...
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 1,140   +1,269
TechSpot Elite
As a Taiwanese, I can tell you exactly why the government doesn't want to build at least one desalination plant. As you mentioned, our country is a small island surrounded by the ocean, so every inch of land worth a gold. In terms of the desalination plant, it actually requires power plants, landfills, and other plants to support it. But the fact is that no one wants to live beside those plants. Not to mentions, Taiwan is too small to build more plants for now. So far the solution that the government provides is to remove silt in reservoirs as much as possible. (Sorry for my English. My native language is not English)
Your English is good enough that I wouldn't have known it wasn't your native language if you hadn't said so. No need to worry about that.

I can understand how the value of land on Taiwan could make a government hesitant to build something like this, believe me, I do. The problem that I have with this argument is that it's putting money over people and I will never consider that to be a valid position. I'm not saying that they're not thinking that way, I'm saying that they're wrong to do so. If a serious drought hits (and it will happen sooner or later), all that land value will be of little consolation when people are becoming dehydrated.

From an economical standpoint, the reduction in production (hey that rhymes!) probably costs a lot more in lost opportunity than the cost of the land for the desalination plant would be. Imagine the profits that TSMC could be reaping right now if there wasn't a water shortage. You also don't need a separate power plant for it because, as it's only for emergencies, you can have it run on solar power like a mirror farm that boils water. The production would be slow but since these droughts aren't frequent, you could have millions of gallons stored in a reservoir tower. That water will have been distilled litre by litre over several years just waiting to be used to supplement the water that you do have. A solar still doesn't really have any moving parts and the resulting salt could also be used and/or sold.

This is the kind of plant I had in mind because Taiwan isn't a desert. I didn't mean one of the massive plants like you'd find in Israel or the UAE because you don't need it as a primary water source, just something to supplement your primary water source in certain, infrequent situations (like now). I should have been more specific regarding the type of plant I was thinking of. I'm sorry about that, I can see how it could appear that I was referring to the kind of desalination plant that you described.
 
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