“The dry situation has started to affect many hotel businesses,” Kongsak Koopongsakorn, President of the Thai Hotels Association, Southern Thailand Chapter, told The Phuket News this week.
“The tap water does not flow well and there is low pressure. Hotels now have to buy water from private water sources, which is increasing their costs. Plus traffic jams are also increasing as part of the problem because there are now many water trucks on roads throughout the province,” he added.
Boon Yongsakul, Chairman of Boat Pattana Co Ltd and current President of the Phuket Real Estate Association, also confirmed that he was aware of water shortages in key tourist areas on the island.
“Phuket started experiencing drought from January to February because there has not been the same amount of rainfall as in previous years. resulting in a shortage of water in many important tourist areas, such as Patong, Kathu and Thalang District,” he said.
Mr Boon noted that the growing number of tourists on the island is a key factor in the issue.
“Over the years the number of tourists has grown and many hotels are fully booked during the high season, and the number of hotel rooms is increasing. There are 80,000 rooms (on the island) this year. That will rise to 90,000 rooms in 2020. So with any drought and not enough water supply it will be a big problem in the future,” he said.
Mr Boon placed his faith in officials to resolve the situation.
“I know that the Phuket Governor has not been complacent. Officials are working on solving the problem, involving local officials at municipality level. They will find water to provide to people in their areas,” Mr Boon said.
However, the confirmation of affected water supply to key tourist areas comes despite no announcements from the Phuket Water Authority (PWA). The PWA’s regular announcements of areas to be affected water-supply issues stopped flowing mid last month, after the agency recalled a notice warning of imminent “water supply management” in specified areas, with some areas to have water on even dates – and reduce water pressure, causing some to have no water supply at all – on odd dates. In other areas, the even-date, odd-date system was to be reversed.
The recantation of the urgent “water management notice” was quickly followed by a public announcement by Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana, assuring the province that there was enough water being held in the island’s three main reservoirs to ensure regular water supply through to May, when the annual rains brought by southwest monsoon return.
However, Mr Kongsak, who as the owner of The Vijitt Resort Phuket in Rawai has had to arrange his own supplementary water supply for the resort. Mr Kongsak has already secured land with its own lagoon to supply the resort, and bought a water truck to deliver the water to the hotel.
"The Vijitt Resort Phuket is a five-star hotel,” he stressed. “We have planned for a lack of water situation for many years. This is a long-term problem for many hotels.
“Phuket’s water reserves are not enough to provide for the needs of each hotel. Now they have to arrange additional water supply from private sources, but the cost is double (PWA rates),” Mr Kongsak said.
Mr Kongsak urged the government to take proactive steps to ensure that water reserves do not fall short as the number of tourists visiting the island continues to grow.
“We want the government to start a long-term project to solve water shortage problems because the number of tourists staying here and the number of hotels have grown a lot, but Phuket does not have a large-scale project to solve the water shortage problem,” he said.
“The water held at Bang Neow Dum and the other reservoirs are not enough to meet the demand of 110 million cubic meters of water a year. It is expected that by the year 2032, 150mn m3 of water will be needed.
“The capacity of the reservoirs is not enough. We should proceed with the water pipeline from Surat Thani or have water supplied from neighbouring provinces to ensure sustainable water supply in Phuket,” he said.
Meanwhile, the PWA this week admitted that water rations will be among the options presented to the Phuket Governor “soon”.
“We just held an internal office meeting yesterday morning (Mar 4) after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha gave his nationwide order (regarding drought measures) yesterday,” Graisorn Mahamad, Chief Provincial Waterworks Authority, told The Phuket News on Tuesday (Mar 5).
“We are thinking about water rationing by reduce the water released from Bang Wad reservoir, but the detailed plan will first be presented to Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana (before any action is taken),” he added.
“I am not sure when I will meet with Phuket Governor Phakaphong, but it will be soon,” Mr Graison said.
When called by The Phuket News on Tuesday, Mr Graison said he was unable to confirm when the plan will be presented to the Governor or even reveal more details of the plan to be presented.
Somsawat Chaisinsod, Director of Phuket Provincial Irrigation Office, told The Phuket News that he submitted a report to Governor Phakaphong last Thursday (Feb 28), detailing the water reserves in store at Phuket’s three main reservoirs – Bang Wad in Kathu, Bang Neow in Srisoonthorn and Khlong Kratha in Chalong.
The water level report submitted was the regular monthly report, not a special report, Mr Somsawat stressed.
Bang Wad reservoir currently contains some 3.8 million cubic meters of its 10mn-plus m3 capacity, Mr Somsawat confirmed.
“Bang Neow Dum contains about 1.74mn m3 of water, and the Khlong Kratha reservoir in Chalong currently contains about 1.38mn m3 of water of its 4.2mn m3 capacity,” he said.
“Right now we must figure out the water situation with the Phuket Governor along with other officials soon as possible. I need everyone to work together, not just Phuket Provincial Irrigation Office,” he said.
“At normal consumption rates we have enough water to last until the end of April, but no longer after that,” Mr Somsawat told The Phuket News.
“I requested that the Governor call together all the heads of the local councils so we can come up with a co-ordinated strategy to conserve as much water as we can (without undue hardship),” he said.
“I also asked for all local administrations to locate and make available any local water sources in their respective areas in order to supplement our water supply,” he said.
Mr Somsawat said that there were 109 private water sources across the island that could be used.
“These together can provide about 20mn m3 of water in total,” he said.