Northeast Thailand faces drought, as dam levels low

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Ubonrat Dam

Northeast Thailand faces drought, as dam levels low

25 September 2018

SOME PARTS of the Northeast and Central regions are expected to face severe drought due to near-empty reservoirs and a strong dry season caused by the El Nino effect.

Even though three provinces are still inundated, and the dry season has yet to begin, the National Water Resources (ONWR) yesterday raised an alarm about emerging drought risks. The Northeast faces the greatest risk, as Ubonrat Dam, one of the major dams of the region, is only 11 per cent full. The Northeast has 21 of the country’s 36 dams that are at less than 30 per cent of their available capacity.

Moreover, the Meteorological Department and Hydro and Agro Informatics Institute (HAII) also caution that these dams only have some 30 days to collect water from the seasonal rainfall until the rainy season resumes in May 2019.

The Meteorological Depart-ment has also warned that the development of El Nino in the Pacific Ocean in the beginning of 2019 will contribute to an even drier than normal climate in Southeast Asia and Western Pacific, which will further intensify the severity of the coming drought.

Given the worrisome water situation in many reservoirs, Somkiat Prajamwong, ONWR secretary-general, has ordered all water-management agencies to get ready for the upcoming drought and carefully manage water resources. They must ensure that the country has sufficient water to last through the upcoming dry season, Somkiat added.

“The ONWR has assigned all responsible agencies to closely monitor the water situation in their reservoirs,” he said. “If they find that the water level in their reservoirs is below 60 per cent of total capacity, they will have to assess the risk of water insufficiency and report back to ONWR.”

He said the list of these reservoirs and their assessed water situation would be passed on to the Royal Rainmaking and Agricultural Aviation Depart-ment, so they can run rainmaking missions to top up the dams.

Information from Royal Irrigation Department’s (RID) Smart Water Operation Centre put water levels in 143 reservoirs at less than 60 per cent of capacity. Of those, 132 are medium-sized reservoirs, with most located in the lower part of the Northeast and to the west of the Chao Phraya River Basin.

Those regions match up with the highly unusual precipitation patterns of this year, in which much of the country, especially upper Northeast and East have received much larger volumes of rain, which contributed to widespread floods in 23 provinces.

The amount of precipitation in lower Northeast and western part of the Central Plain was significantly lower than average, which caused water scarcity in those areas well before the rainy season has ended.

HAII has calculated a deficit of some 799 million cubic metres of water to meet demand in the Chao Phraya River Basin during the dry season. The total water demand for this region until the next rainy season is estimated at around 12 billion cubic metres, while there are only 11.21 billion cubic metres of water reserves in the four main dams of the watershed.


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