Island has water to last until mid-March

PHUKET: Despite almost daily rain over the past few months, Phuket’s principal water supply source is still only about half full.

With the rainy season drawing to a close, Isara Anukul, Chief of the Water Allocation Division of the Phuket Irrigation Office (PIO), told the Gazette yesterday that the Bang Wad Reservoir in Kathu currently has 3.28 million cubic meters in storage. That is less than half the reservoir’s capacity of 7.31m3.

“Without additional rainfall, the water will last only until mid-March. However, I expect about 100 millimeters of additional rainfall in December,” he said.

Chumnong Chitpukdee, Director of the Southern Meteorological Center (West Coast), told the Gazette yesterday that the intense low pressure trough presently covering southern Thai provinces will mean one or two more days of much-needed heavy rain.

Precipitation in this year’s rainy season has been below average so far, K. Isara said. Some 308 millimeters of rain fell in October and 170 millimeters had fallen thus far in November, he said.

These amounts are the lowest in recent years for what are statistically Phuket’s two rainiest months.

It is widely accepted that the water supply problem in Phuket is not one of inadequate rainfall, but rather of an insufficient capacity to collect and store enough water during the rainy season to last through the dry season, which coincides with the high season for tourism, when demand for water is at its highest.

The October rainfall alone brought 167m3 of water to the island, an amount sufficient to fill the Bang Wad reservoir 23 times – if all of it could somehow be collected and stored.

Earlier this month, the Phuket Office of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (ODPM) organized a meeting, chaired by Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura and attended by numerous local officials, on how to deal with worsening dry season water shortages.

K. Isara said that the OPDM has studied ways to implement HM King Bhumibol’s Gaem Ling (Monkey’s Cheek) Project, which calls for the building of reservoirs and ponds to store water and allow for controlled drainage.

If implemented properly, The Gaem Ling Project would be effective for both flood prevention and water supply purposes.

PIO surveys found two areas in Phuket suitable for such a project: along the banks of Klong Bang Yai in the south end of Patong; and at Klong Saneh Po in Thalang, he said.

However, K. Isara said that he thought it unlikely that Gaem Ling projects could ever be established in these locations because both are on privately held land.

“Later we will conduct studies of the Khao Ket Mee and Toh Tee Fen areas of Kamala to see if we will be able to build Gaem Ling projects there,” he said.

While the island appears to have enough water to get through the high season for tourism, it is not clear how a drought will be avoided in the dry months that will follow.

Although the Provincial Waterworks Authority is working to build pipelines and buy more water from privately held tin mines, it is possible that these these sources will do little more than offset the ever-increasing demand for water related to the ongoing property boom.

A much-talked-about plan to build a 300-kilometer pipeline to bring water in from Chieo Lan Reservoir in Surat Thani, touted as a long-term solution, has yet to be approved by Cabinet and is, in any case, opposed by people in Surat Thani.

Plans to deal with the expected drought in the upcoming dry season by building a desalination plant in Karon have also been delayed.

It was announced earlier that the project could be up and running as early as next April – in time to supply at least 9,000m³/day of purified seawater to the provincial water supply system mains in Patong and Kata-Karon.

But Surasak Tieowluan, Project Director of REQ Water Service Center Co, which is planning to build the project, now says that work will not begin until some time next year.

Phuket News

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