taiwan drought, chip shortages, tsmc
Source: Unsplash

There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel amid the worsening drought in Taiwan. The plum rain season, which usually dumps a huge amount of water every year between late spring and early summer, is said to arrive in Taiwan between May 25 to 30 according to the weather forecast with a good chance to bring “a lot” of rain, although not necessarily at where it is most needed.

Reservoirs are hitting a bottom low

The worst drought seen in 56 years in middle-south Taiwan is worsening at an alarming level. The two Baoshan reservoirs providing water to the Hsin Chu Science Park where the TSMC fabs are located has dropped significantly to 9% and 3% respectively, with the latter only enough to support for less than two weeks. 

TSMC ups water truck budgets

Industry sources said TSMC has increased the water-trucking budget to reaching NT$800 million in face of stricter rules imposed on water usage at the Hsin Chu Science Park today that further limits water usage up 2% to reaching 17%. Hsin Chu Science Park admitted that in such a scenario, daily water insufficiency will reach 5,000 tons.

The budget will be used to increase water truckloads and the number of rounds needed to ensure unaffected chip productions. But TSMC said the expense will depend on the situation.

The wet season occurs every year between late spring and early summer is typically known as the plum rain (Meiyu). It is formed along a persistent stationary front that usually lasts for two months before the subtropical ridge becomes strong enough and pushes the front up north.

10 percent requires water trucks to fill

Taiwan’s Water Resources Agency announced that if the Hsin Chu area’s daily precipitation stays below 100mm by June 1, stricter rules, such as supplying water to only five days a week, will be imposed. 

Daily consumption nears 150,000 tons of water at the Hsin Chu Science park, and currently, approximately 10% rely on water trucks to be filled. According to people familiar with the matter, water trucks had loaded 75,000 tons of water in March which took about 100 rounds per day, and 110,000 tons in April via 150 rounds daily.

200mm rainfall needed to return to normal

If the Hsin Chu Science Park is to be impacted, Taiwan’s economy may not be spared, neither would the IC industry supply chain. The Water Resources Agency stated if precipitation is concentrated in watersheds, where water could be conserved and reach 100mm, relevant restrictions could be postponed, but to return back to normal water consumption level will require well above 200mm of rainfall.

As the Covid-19 cases surge, power outages strike, and the unforeseeable ending drought overshadowing the country, will the plum rain come to the rescue and ease off some stress of the island nation?


Sources: Commercial TimesCNATaiwan StatCommonwealth Magazine (in Mandarin)