Taiwan has been experiencing its worst drought in more than half a century for 18 months now after no typhoons hit the island last year.
The country relies on typhoons in the summer and autumn to top up reservoirs, but not one typhoon made landfall in 2020, the first time that had happened since 1964.
The situation is the worst in central Taiwan, where some reservoirs are effectively empty or at 5% capacity or less.
Sun Moon Lake, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, has dried up, revealing a cracked lakebed.
The lake is so dry that one man found a phone he dropped into the lake a year earlier that was still working. Influencers are posting photos of them lying on a boat half buried in the lakebed.
The government has turned off water for everyone for two days a week in several major cities, including Taichung, Taiwan’s second largest city, which has a population of 2.8 million.
On these days, some restaurants and public toilets are closed. Residents are having to store excess water in their bathtubs during the week for the two days without water.
The water shortage is causing concerns that it could affect the island’s semi-conductor industry, which makes most of the world’s computer chips.
One of the companies, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is responsible for more than 90% of the world’s manufacturing capacity for the most advanced chips, producing chips for Apple, Intel and other major companies, according to the New York Times.
TSMC, which uses about 156 million liters of water each day, according to the Guardian, has hauled trucks of water from other areas. The company says its production has not yet been affected, but it also has plans to invest $100 billion over the next three years to increase capacity.
To try and combat the water shortage, the government has tried to trigger rain by dumping cloud-seeding chemicals with military planes.
It also built a seawater desalination plant in Hsinchu, where TSMC’s headquarters are located, and a pipeline connecting Hsinchu to the north, where it rains more frequently.
The government has also allocated 2.5 billion New Taiwan dollars ($88 million) to drill wells and build emergency seawater desalination facilities, according to the New York Times.