Is Taiwan’s Water Too Cheap?

Is Taiwan’s Water Too Cheap?
Photo Credit: AP / 達志影像

What you need to know

Currently, Taiwanese people enjoy the cheapest water in Asia, with NT$9.2 charged per unit on average.

Taiwan’s lawmakers called on the government to raise the water bill today as the country braces for the worst drought in more than five decades, following months of scant rainfall and a year without recording a typhoon.

While President Tsai Ing-wen had urged the public to conserve water in early March to weather the crisis, members of the Taiwan People’s Party in the Legislative Yuan suggested “solving the root of the water problem” and reexamining water distribution across the country.

Taiwan is no stranger to water shortages. Most of the main island’s rainfall flows into the sea due to its range of steep mountains and a lack of extensive river system. The dry spell typically lasts for six months.

Lai Hsiang-lin, a TPP legislator, said the government should formulate a new billing mechanism to have businesses consuming the most water pay a reasonable price for their consumption.

“The wool comes from the sheep’s back,” Lai said. In Taiwan, “the taxpayers are now paying for the water that businesses waste due to its low price.”

According to a report by the Taiwan Water Corporation, Taiwan’s state-run water company, 5% of the users are responsible for 41% of the overall water consumption. The largest water users include TSMC, China Steel Corporation (Taiwan’s steel producer), and CPC Corporation (Taiwan’s state-owned petroleum company).

“For most civilians, who consume less than 20 units per month, a unit costs NT$7 to $9, but more industrial businesses, who consume more than 40,000 a month, a unit costs NT$12 — is a 3-dollar gap reasonable?”

With the price of water lower than the cost, “the more the Taiwan Water Corporation sells, the more it loses,” Lai said.

But experts also believe increasing the billing rate for everyone is inevitable. Currently, Taiwanese people enjoy the cheapest water in Asia, with NT$9.2 charged per unit on average. In neighboring Japan, a unit of water costs NT$49.6 on average.

Li Ken-cheng, CEO for the local environmentalist group Citizens of the Earth, said the bill should reflect the cost of producing water. He also supported the idea of taxing main water users.

Lee Hong-yuan, former minister of the interior of the Executive Yuan, said the Taiwanese waste too much water, and that this waste is the main cause of water shortages.

“The government shouldn’t only talk about expanding the source of water,” Lee said. “The point is to economize.” He suggested building wastewater treatment plants to be the best solution.

Tsai Pi-ru, a TPP legislator, believes the government should continue developing new sources of water, but it also has to raise the price of water, which will incentivize people to set up water conservation systems, such as water reclamation facilities.

TPP lawmakers said Taiwan’s government should take preemptive measures to prevent water shortages from becoming “the new normal.”

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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