Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is building the world’s first privately owned reclaimed water plant at Tainan Science Park located in southern Taiwan and will start supplying water for fabrication this year. The construction plans were announced last year in face of stringent guidelines on water shortages.
The reclaimed water plant will purify industrial water for chip fabrication. Construction is set to be finished by March and successively go into system installation as well as final testing.
Early operation plans to produce 5 thousand tons of reclaimed water with volumes gradually upscaling to 20 thousand tons in 2023.
How much water does TSMC need exactly?
TSMC has factories located in northern, central, and southern parts of Taiwan, the total daily water usage of all domestic factories accumulates 15.6 thousand tons, accounting for 10%, 5%, and 3% of the daily water supply in those regions respectively, according to the latest available data.
The TSMC fab located in Tainan Science Park, southern Taiwan, is where the advanced 5nm process semiconductors are manufactured. Those chips are in vast shipments requiring tons of water to ramp up production.
Unfortunately, it is the driest season in southern Taiwan. A look at the water levels shows the main water source for that area, Zengwen reservoir, is currently down to 15.1% full.
Usually, a handful of typhoons pass the island during the summer which brings tons of water that could be saved up in reservoirs for the upcoming dry winter.
Last summer, however, none made its landfall, further exacerbating the situation.
While the weather is an unpredictable factor, TSMC has put effort into searching for water and saving it up.
What has TSMC done in face of a worsening water shortage?
UMC has joined TSMC to begin trucking water from elsewhere, but that only counts 20 tons per delivery.
To put it into perspective, taking the daily water usage of TSMC Tainan fab as an example, if all 50 thousand tons of water came from trucking, that would need 2,500 deliveries a day.
In 2019, TSMC recycled 133.7 million tons of water (including factories in China), approximately 4 times the size of the Baoshan reservoir (寶山水庫). However, the attempt to reduce water consumption per manufacturing unit failed to reach the targeted goal of 27% from that of a decade ago, but only down to 5.2%.
Apart from hoping the newly built reclaimed water plant could ease off the drought restrictions, the real solution may be to pray for the rain to come.