By Pratch Rujivanarom
WATER USAGE for all activities in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) provinces will be studied, as the Office of National Water Resources (ONWR) is drafting a water management plan.
The plan aims to deal with increasing water demand in the EEC.
ONWR secretary-general Somkiat Prachamwong said that as the government is currently promoting industrial investment in the three EEC provinces – Chon Buri, Rayong, and Chachoengsao – water demand in the region is expected to rise drastically. He was speaking in Rayong on Friday at an orientation event of the Eastern Region’s water resources development and management project.
He said his office has to carefully plan water resource management beforehand to prevent shortages and conflicts over limited resources in the future.
“As we are trying to prepare the water management plan to cope with rising water demand after the EEC is fully developed, we have to first understand the nature of water usage for all activities in the region,” Somkiat said.
“In order to do so, we have to prepare a water account, which will list all the available water sources, the water users in the region, and their demand, so as to let us get a big picture of water demand and supply in the region and allow us to properly develop a strategic water management system for the EEC.”
Therefore, he said all water users in EEC provinces have to register their water demand, so that the ONWR and related agencies can accurately allocate water for each area and also estimate properly the water demand growth in the region.
“Those who register in the water account are guaranteed sufficient water supply for consumption. We are also studying water usage quota for each economic activity such as industry, agriculture, and domestic water consumption to make sure that there will be enough water for everyone,” he said.
According to the preliminary study of water demand and supply in the Eastern Region and the three EEC provinces by ONWR, it was found that total water supply in the whole Eastern Region was around 2.936 billion cubic metres, while water supply in the three EEC provinces was 1.682 billion cubic metres.
However, it was found that demand for water consumption requirement for all economic activities in the entire Eastern Region was 3.833 billion cubic metres, while in the three EEC provinces the demand was 1.984 billion cubic metres.
From the figures, it can be seen that that there is a mismatch of demand and supply, Somkiat said, warning that unless there were efficient irrigation systems in place, the entire region could suffer serious water shortage, especially in the next 20 years.
The ONWR study also estimated that water demand in the three EEC provinces would rise to around 2.242 billion cubic metres by 2027.
“From the study, we expect that with the growth of the industrial sector in the EEC, demand from industry will increase to up to 680 million cubic metres. However, water supply is limited in the core EEC areas, so we have to look beyond these areas and divert excess water resources from other water basins to meet the EEC’s growing water demand,” Somkiat said.
He informed that in order to generate more water supply for the industrial development and urban expansion in EEC, ONWR has planned many new irrigation projects in EEC provinces and nearby provinces for instance reservoir enlargement, water diversion pipeline network expansion, and construction of four new reservoirs in Chantaburi.
As more water is diverted into EEC areas from other water basins, he assured water users, especially farmers, in the local area will be the first to get water for irrigation and only if there is excess after local consumption will the supply be diverted to EEC areas.
Thinnakorn Suthin, director of the Pasae Water Diversion Project and Maintenance, also highlighted that there were clear procedures for water diversion across the different water basins, as for instance the water could not be diverted from Pasae Reservoir to Nong Plalai Reserviors and then to Bang Phra Reservoir, unless the water in the destination reservoirs are lower than the source reservoirs.
Apart from new irrigation projects and water diversion, Somkiat said the ONWR is coordinating with Groundwater Resources Department to tap more groundwater to meet the EEC’s demands.
He said the three EEC provinces still have potential to pump an additional 1.187 billion cubic metres of groundwater per year from the current groundwater use of 1.31 billion cubic metres per year.
Meanwhile, he also pointed out that the industrial sector in the EEC is also encouraged to reuse water and desalinated seawater to lower the demand for water.