TWC reveals 1.41 million tons of water stolen last year
Water theft has been a serious problem in Taiwan, with last year’s loss registered from crackdowns amounting to an equivalent of at least a day’s supply from the Shihmen Dam, according to official statistics.
Confirmed cases of water thefts amounted to 1.41 million tons last year, but the actual amount stolen must have been much larger, the Taiwan Water Corp. (TWC) said.
The TWC’s work is to manage the water supply to households and factories, and some of its major duties include curbing leakages and thefts, particularly when the country is facing its worst drought in decades.
The amount of water being stolen in confirmed thefts every year has stayed approximately the same over the past several years, and the situation in central region covering Taichung, Changhua and Nantou was worst last year, according to the TWC.
The region registered water thefts totaling 467,000 tons last year. Other areas that also saw rampant water thefts included Kaohsiung, Pingtung and Pen- ghu, with the three areas totaling 264,000 tons.
Many of the offenders are heavy water users, such as factories and fish farms, and there are also underground factories which are denied the official supply.
One repeat offender who runs an underground factory was fined NT$1 million for his first water theft, but he did not stop. He was cited by the United Evening News as saying that he cannot apply for an official water meter and has to continue stealing water to keep his factory running.
TWC workers said cracking down on water thefts is no easy job and it could be dangerous.
People tie their dogs to their meters to deter TWC inspectors from checking them, the workers said.
One TWC inspector remembers a time when he opened the cover of a water meter there was a snake inside.
Another said he had to be accompanied by police when inspecting a shrimp fishing joint that was run by a gangster in New Taipei City.
Sometimes offenders show their community spirit in a negative way. TWC workers said that when they were driving around Penghu carrying out inspection tours last year, some communities would announce on their loudspeaker system when their vehicles approached: “The TWC are here, for those who are stealing water, turn off the taps.”
According to the TWC, fines for water thefts range from a minimum equivalent to the amount stolen to three months’ to a year’s water bills that offenders would have to pay if they were not stealing.