Monday, 11 January 2010

Revising Water Management


Monday's editorial by Hong Chi-chang on the problems that water management poses to the Ma administration was disappointing. In particular, the premise that water management problems can "only" be solved by central government does not hold up to rational examination. I submit that a free market (i.e. free from taxation, regulation and other interference by government) is more likely to successfully address problems of water management over the years to come, if only it is allowed to do so.

In cases of drought, the problem is to be found not in a lack of water per se, but rather the with the economics of handling the logistical demands of purifying and transporting large quantities of water for consumption. This is equally true with cases of flooding, in which too much water carries debris which can damage the piping network thus necessitating temporary shut downs whilst time-consuming and expensive repairs are carried out.

A more general criticism however, is that piping networks delivering water from gigantic treatment facilities to a multitude of buildings within an urban area are rather expensive to construct and maintain - the costs are not only monetary, but must include all the inconveniences and risks involved in digging up public roads in order to carry out maintenance work.

Recent developments in filter technology obviate the need for such gigantic water treatment facilities and their accompanying octopus-like piping networks; nano-scale filters can now eliminate all micro-organisms from water that passes through them thus eliminating health risks. The further development of such filters for use within houses, apartment complexes and other buildings would allow one to conceive of breaking up the monopolistic logistical nightmare of Taiwan Water Corporation into distinct markets for each stage - the collecting, saving, transporting and filtering of water for domestic use. Aside from the obvious benefits to the economy of replacing a monopolized, inefficient industry with a larger, more competitive industry under multitudinous ownership, there would also be the benefit of enabling people struck by future natural (or man made) disasters to gather clean water for themselves quickly without the need for government assistance - a filip which would not only save time and money, but surely also save lives.

What is needed is for the government to be prepared to get out of the way and let entrepreneurs do their thing; making the world a better place.

Yours as ever,
Michael Fagan

(Sent: Monday 11th January 2010. Unpublished by the Taipei Times).

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