Taiwan is facing a serious drought, maybe its worst in almost a century. This drought has depleted reservoirs, cut off farmers from water sources, and limited some of the world’s most advanced semiconductor factories. Factories use water.
This is the third year in a row that rice farmers in southern Taiwan have not been allowed to plant their crops. Instead, the government is paying them subsidies not to grow rice this season. The rice uses scarce water that semiconductor factories nearby need.
“The ducks loved the water, but now we can’t raise them or grow rice. I tried to grow flowers to bring in some tourists, but nothing grows well here,” says a rice grower. In southern Taiwan, its storied agricultural way of life exists side by side with the most advanced semiconductor manufacturing bases in the world. And now, with the drought, both are competing for water.
“We barely have enough water, and you’re diverting even more for others to use,” says a tomato grower in southern Tainan County, where Taiwan chip giant TSMC is building its newest chip factory. It’s also close to the Zengwen reservoir, one of Taiwan’s largest. An astonishingly dry three years and an absence of Taiwan’s usual typhoons means the reservoir is at a scary low, filled to just 11% of its capacity. Taiwan’s other reservoirs are just 20 or 30% filled because spring typhoons have not come, and that’s thrown off natural cycles.
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