KHON KAEN – Parts of the northeastern region covering 10 provinces have been declared drought affected areas because of the prolonged lack of rain. The drought disaster in Khon Kaen is considered the worst in 50 years, requiring special water deliveries from Chulabhorn reservoir every two months, to ensure water availability.
Officials from Chum Phae local waterworks office in Chum Phae district, Khon Kaen, have surveyed water availability in Choen River at a water pumping station, as the water level has continued to decrease leaving the inlet pipe covered by only 20 centimeters. The area earlier requested Chulabhorn reservoir upstream in Chaiyaphum to discharge extra water to resolve the shortage of water for tap water production, but only 500,000 cubic meters out of 2 million cubic meters in water volume reached the area, with the current availability only sufficient for tap water production for 40 more days.
Chum Phae Hospital director Duangporn Aswarachan said today the hospital serves patients from nine surrounding districts, especially patients requiring hemodialysis, a procedure that uses a lot of water each time. The hospital is required to have a backup plan in case of water shortages to minimize the effect on patients.
In Bueng Kan, rice farmers in Ban San Charoen village and Ban Pan Lam village are now faced with a premature drought season, causing heading and ripening rice to lack the water needed. Farmers are required to buy water pumped in from the Mekong river for the crops, charged at 65 baht per hour. The service could only provide a water supply to a single farmer yesterday, with the waiting list now full. The transition into winter with dry air and strong winds also causes the crops to dry out more easily.
In Nong Khai, water levels in the Mekong river remain at less than 1.5 meters deep, which is the lowest in 50 years. The low water level has caused sand sediment and islands to show up in the middle of the river, obstructing boat navigation, especially Thailand-Laos cargo boats at Hai Sok Pier where the load limit has been reduced, and captains are required to exercise greater caution while navigating. The water level, if lowered by just another 30 centimeters, will halt the cargo boat service, as boats will not be able to reach the pier on the Laos side, affecting pier workers including some 100 workers in Thailand.
In Bang Rakam, Phitsanulok, staff members from Yom-Nan rivers water delivery and maintenance project managed by the 3rd Irrigation Office, have removed debris obstructing Bang Kaew water discharge gate, and closed all five gates after the water level in the Yom river continued to drop. The closure of this discharge gate is aimed at helping conserve water for consumption during the dry season, expected to be of concern due to insufficient water in the main dams.