Sunday, February 15, 2009

Water shortages: an update

From an editorial at the Donga Ilbo:

The scarcer the water supply, the more frequent disputes between provincial governments will become. The serious drought this winter season could further fuel such disputes. Korea must enact basic water laws and establish an organization to comprehensively manage water resources if necessary. For the country to come up with legal and institutional measures for this, the central and provincial governments must work together.

Ultimately, Korea must increase its supply of clean water. About two thirds of annual precipitation comes in summer. So the country must urgently increase its capacity to collect and store seasonal precipitation rather than let it flow again. The government must actively consider building dams that can help store water. While carefully examining the impact of dams on the environment, the government should not be swayed by the argument objectively lacking logic and wasting time. Improving water quality through a new state project designed to streamline the four major rivers will be helpful toward this effort. The people should also recognize the severity of the water shortage and strive to save water in their daily lives.

The first paragraph quoted cites conventional wisdom and makes the same statements one could find anywhere in the world. I am concerned, however, by the expectation that legal measures will solve the problem. In addition to the historic examples of the law being ignored in similar cases is the diplomatic situation. Water for inland Gangwon Province and even Seoul itself comes form North Korea. I hope a solution can be found.

It is the second paragraph that I find more interesting. Increasing a supply of clean water might be possible, although the solution suggested (damming) will only supply more water (critically absent is the adjective 'clean').

Quickly, damming has it's own problems. Chiefly, dams silt up so they don't hold much extra water for long but do change areas up- and down- stream in ecologically unfriendly ways.

Alright, back to Clean water. GI Korea might well be the best source for the problem with his '2000 Yongsan Water Dumping Scandal' post. Well, he is more interested in the Yongsan scandal himself, but his main point is that up to 60 gallons of formaldehyde were dumped into the Han River, causing a huge PR mess for the US Army. Around the same time, as the GI quotes, "It is shocking news that 29 timber companies were found to have released 271 tons of formalin over the past three years into streams feeding the Han River, the main source of drinking water for Seoul and Kyonggi Province." (Korea Times, 2nd Article).

Ah, more later. I don't know how ironic this is, but my son and I are going to a Water park, Waterpia.

LATER: We had a great time at Waterpia but my enjoyment was somewhat disturbed by thinking about the water shortages in Gangwon. I think I covered all I wanted to in this post. This is as good a place as any to end.

previously at Gangwon Notes and Brian in Jeollamnam-do.


Masuro said...

Have fun at the water park, earth killer. :) Just joking, of course.
I can see a future where rice will become a grain that is only eaten once or twice a week because it simply takes too much water to grow it. However, I've read that rice fields only need to be flooded once every ten days and not constantly full of water. Perhaps farmers will adopt new farming methods and people can have rice on the table every day. I wouldn't be too sad if potatoes and wheat became the staple food but it wouldn't be easy for other people to change an eating habit that's been around for thousands of years. I can't, for example, imagine my parents suddenly having to eat rice every day instead of potatoes. Beef also takes a large amount of water to produce so that might be off the table in the future. Not that anyone can afford to eat it now . . . .

Masuro said...

I remember what I originally wanted to comment about. The country is facing water shortages (land shortages, energy shortages, etc shortages) but yet the government wants people to have more children. The people in government are thinking "children=economic growth" but no one is thinking "more people=destroyed environment."

Mike Rowe said...

Here in Taebaek, one of the hardest hit regions, we currently get water for maybe 4 hours a day. 6-7am and then 6-9pm.

We've been told that the existing water infrastructure wastes approx 50% of all processed clean water due to leaks.

Also its interesting to note but the new O2 ski/golf resort seems to be doing loads of snow making, and their golf courses are nice and green. All while I can't take a shower in the mornings or even flush the toilet for most of the day.

Not sure how this will work when there are 350 people in my small school, all of whom use toilets, and expect food etc etc etc.