Phuket, a popular tourist destination, has been grappling with water shortages, flooding, and wastewater management issues due to rapid urbanization and tourism influx. The Office of the National Water Resources (ONWR) is stepping up efforts to address these concerns.
Phuket’s Water Shortage Crisis
Phuket is a major hub for tourism, but it experiences an annual water shortage of approximately 25.5 million cubic meters (m³), primarily during the dry season. The ONWR is working on an area-based study to help the island better align with its 20-year water management master plan. The goal is to increase the annual water supply to around 60.5 million m³.
Flooding and Urban Planning Challenges
During the wet season, Phuket faces flooding problems due to overflowing canals. A lack of proper city planning has resulted in structures that block outflows and high tides. ONWR secretary-general Surasri Kidtimonton has emphasized the need for better urban planning to mitigate these issues.
Effects of Urban Expansion on Forests and Topsoil
The growing population and influx of tourists have led to urban expansion and a reduction in forest cover on the island. Heavy rain has also been washing away the topsoil. ONWR aims to address topsoil damage as an urgent issue, with proper management required to restore the forest ecosystem.
Check Dams to Reduce Soil Erosion
To tackle the issue of soil erosion, the ONWR has proposed building check dams in forests during the wet season. These dams will minimize the water flow velocity during heavy rain and help curb the soil erosion problem. Local authorities will initially construct a check dam in the Ban Nam Tok Kathu community in Kathu district, which is expected to prevent topsoil erosion over an area of 291 rai.
Phuket’s thriving communities and entertainment venues produce wastewater exceeding the island’s treatment capacity. ONWR is focused on increasing the treatment capacity up to 5 million m³ of wastewater per year to address this.
Water Conservation Initiatives
The ONWR is also exploring ways that residents and businesses in Phuket can save water. One suggestion is installing water meters in showers, a measure that has proven effective in foreign countries. Surasri Kidtimonton has noted that the El Nino weather pattern has not yet affected Phuket, with no decrease in rainfall observed so far.
Ongoing Efforts and Collaboration
ONWR secretary-general Surasri Kidtimonton’s recent visit to Phuket marks a continued commitment to monitoring the progress of water management plans and forest conservation around natural water sources in the Kathu district. As the ONWR accelerates its efforts, collaboration with local authorities and stakeholders will be crucial in addressing Phuket’s water challenges effectively.