The move comes as water officials take drastic measures in the hope of making water reserves last until the annual monsoon rains return in earnest next May – and leaving the island dependent on supply from private water sources until then.
“The water we have at the three main reservoirs now is not enough to last through the whole dry season next year (2020),” the chief of the Phuket office of the Provincial Waterworks Authority (PWA), Graisorn Mahamad, admitted this week.
“We urge everyone to start conserving how much water they use as much as possible,” he said.
The Office National Water Resources (ONWR) ordered Mr Graisorn and his office to immediately take steps to conserve water following ONWR Secretary-General Somkiat Prajamwong arriving in Phuket in person Monday last week (Oct 28) to deliver his message personally. (See story here.)
“Plus the Phuket Provincial Irrigation Office [PPIO] has reduced how much water being released from Bang Wad reservoir. Previously, it was 20,000 cubic metres a day, last Friday it was reduced to 15,000m3 a day,” Mr Graisorn explained.
The PPIO is responsible for maintaining and regulating the water levels at the island’s main reservoirs, while Mr Graisorn and the Phuket PWA office is responsible for distributing it.
“Next, the water released from Bang Wad reservoir will be reduced to 10,000m3 per day, starting on January 1,” Mr Graisorn confirmed.
The bad news doesn’t stop there.
“Next week, the PPIO will ban the PWA from using any water from the Bang Neow Dum reservoir as any water there now will be held back for use in case of emergency,” he said.
Phuket PWA Deputy Manager Thamrak Kumpech told The Phuket News, “It’s hard to predict how much people will suffer from this, but it will affect people living in high areas and near the end of supply network.
“We will probably be able to better estimate the situation at the end of December. If there is not enough water in the reservoirs then, we will start thinking about water rations,” he said.
Water supplied from private sources, which the PWA began securing in the aftermath of the water crisis in Phuket earlier this year, is hoped to deliver enough water for the coming months, though Mr Graisorn has his doubts.
Bang Wad reservoir as of Wednesday contained 3.274mn m3 of its 10.2mn-plus m3 capacity. “This is enough to last 72 days [at current usage rates],” Mr Graisorn said.
To supplement that supply, the PWA has signed contracts with five private water source owners to provide about 12,600m3 of water per day to supply homes and businesses served by Bang Wad reservoir. The contracts last five years and total B325 million, he explained.
Although Bang Neow Dum reservoir in Srisoonthorn, Thalang, currently contains about 0.69mn m3 of its 7.2mn m3 capacity, that water will be off-limits as of next week, Mr Graisorn repeated.
“We have contracted three private water source owners to provide about 16,400m3 per day to serve those connected to water supplied by the Bang Neow Dum reservoir, and we have constructed a temporary weir along the Jea-Sa canal in Cherng Talay which we can use to help serve people in the area,” he said.
The three contracts each last for five years and cost the PWA about B260mn, he added.
“All this water from private sources we can use now. The total cost of sourcing water from private owners costs about B585 million. But all this private water goes directly to people’s homes, none of it can be used to refill the reservoirs,” Mr Graisorn explained.
“If the private water owners can continue to supply the volumes they have agreed to in the contracts, we should fine. But I am not confident they will be able to sustain the volume of supply contracted after the end of December,” he cautioned.
“We will have to check again then. If the private water sources start running short, then we will have a serious problem,” Mr Graisorn said.
Meanwhile, at the southern end of the island, the Khlong Katha reservoir in Chalong as of this week contained about 2.040mn m3 of its 4.32mn m3 capacity – enough to last about 30 days, Phuket PWA Deputy Manager Mr Thamrak confirmed.
No private water sources have been found to supplement that end of the island, though much of the distribution in the southern end of the island is connected to the island’s main water supply network.