Mr Somkiat arrived in Phuket on Monday (Dec 21) to be welcomed by Phuket Vice Governor Piyaphong Chuwong and Phuket Provincial Irrigation Office Director Pairot Kamthorn, who joined him on his tour.
During his visit, Mr Somkiat inspected Bang Neow Dam reservoir in Srisoonthorn, which in recent years has drained nearly entirely during the dry months, adding to the water-supply crises Phuket residents have endured.
Mr Somkat then inspected the seawater reverse-osmosis (RO) water-production plant in Karon, which currently can produce up to 12,000 cubic metres of water per day. About 65% of the water produced by the RO plant is distributed to Patong, while the rest 35% is sent to Karon and Kata, Mr Somkiat was told.
Mr Somkiat explained that this inspection aimed to follow up the water management in Phuket, which has been the focus of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) study by Naresuan University and consultancy companies to develop local water resources.
The SEA is also being conducted in 11 other provinces in the South, and researchers from the university have conducted extensive questionnaire surveys among local people in order to create five-year and 20-year development plans. The study is expected to be completed by May 2021, Mr Somkiat said.
“It is important to set up water source management plans in order to serve the increasing demand for water. Water management is an important part of supporting the local economy and tourism in the future,” he added.
“For the fiscal year 2020, the government has provided B1.96 billion* for 114 [water-supply-development] projects in Phuket being carried out by seven government agencies,” Mr Somkiat explained.
“The projects have produced 10.13mn m3 of water and increased the volume of water sources by about 3.2mn m3. This extra water has been already distributed to 10,770 households across about 42,297 rai on the island,” he said.
According to information released by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department (PR Phuket), a study in 2019 reported that Phuket needed about 80.86mn m3 of water each. That figure was predicted to rise to 103.18mn m3 by 2029, and to 124.22mn m3 by 2039.
“The increasing need for water is leading Phuket to face a lack of water supply, so good water management is necessary for this situation,” said the report.
Phuket currently uses about 27.14mn m3 of water per year, with 20.59mn m3 (75.87%) from on-ground sources, 2.55mn m3 (9.4%) from under-ground sources and 4mn m3 (14.73%) produced from seawater.
“However, the amount of water is not enough to meet demand, which is about 125,800m3 per day, or 45mn m3 per year. The current water reserves can serve only 70% of people on the island,” the PR Phuket report admitted.
* Correction: B1.96 billion, not B1.96 million. The error is regretted.