[EDITORIALS]Our dwindling water supplyA serious drought is developing across the nation. Southern parts of the peninsula and the island regions are suffering from water contamination, while shortages of water, especially drinking water, are worsening. Long term wea-ther forecasts show that rainfall will be scant for some time, raising concerns about drought damage. The drought problems of last summer, the worst in 90 years, are returning this year.
The drought is aggravated because there has been no heavy rain and little snow since last fall. The average water storage rate of Korea's 14 multipurpose dams is 33.7 percent, the lowest since 1977. The rate has been 41.3 percent in ordinary years. The average water storage rate of agricultural reservoirs is 75 percent, 12 points lower than in normal years. If these conditions continue during the farming season, this year's crop will be damaged greatly.
There are other urgent reasons that we must manage and develop water resources properly. The United Nations has identified South Korea as a nation short of water; it warned long ago that South Korea will suffer from an acute dearth of water by 2025 if the waste of water continues. The government estimated that water demand will outstrip supply in 2011, resulting in an annual shortage of 1.8 billion metric tons of water.
Repairing agricultural conduits and building more water pumping facilities are urgent tasks. Since the local autonomous bodies are not capable of handling these tasks on their own, the central government should come up with ways to raise the needed funds.
Managing water demands is important, but securing water resources is even more important. The Ministry of Construction plans to build 12 new small and mid-size dams over 10 years, but only three blueprints have been drawn up. Local residents and environmental activists strongly oppose the plans. In past dam-building projects, the interests of residents living in the districts to be submerged were often ignored and environmental conservation was neglected. But we should not understand only the negative side of dam construction. The government should advertise the benefits of dam projects. Unlike other social overhead capital, there is no alternative to water resources.