Drought in Taiwan: How it might play a role in your future hi-tech purchases

Tyler Hamilton
·2 min read
Drought in Taiwan: How it might play a role in your future hi-tech purchases
Drought in Taiwan: How it might play a role in your future hi-tech purchases

Reading this sentence on a phone or laptop? Then there are pretty good odds the semiconductor buried inside is straight from Taiwan.

After all, Taiwan is a country that maintains a 40 per cent market share of this highly saught-after piece of technology. To make matters worse, the coronavirus pandemic has boosted the demand for semiconductors to new heights.

But, there's a bit of a conundrum.

WORSENING DROUGHT

The worst drought in decades has gripped Taiwan, and a series of events had led to impending government interventions to ration water until the wet season arrives later this spring.

On April 6, water restrictions take effect, cutting water supply by 15 per cent across the major semiconductor factories in Taichung, a major technology hub in central Taiwan.

sciencepark
sciencepark

The precipitation numbers have been grim. 2021 has brought Taichung just over 50 mm of precipitation, where the average is nearly 200 mm. Technology parks in Hsinchu are also feeling the drought, with just 156 mm of rainfall recorded, less than 45 per cent of normal for the first few months of 2021.

The two major Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturers aren't claiming much in the way of delays for now. These companies have contracts with water tanker trucks that compliment the water supply with well and groundwater sources.

Taiwan drought
Taiwan drought

These computer chips require immense amounts of water during the manufacturing process. The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company claims to use about 56 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of water daily!

THE TYPHOON CONNECTION

Taiwan is a typhoon magnet, but 2020 failed to see a single landfalling storm. Only a handful of other years have seen zero typhoon activity. These storms are excellent conduits to deliver plentiful rains that restore reservoir levels for the dry season.

unnamed (1)
unnamed (1)

Here's a map that shows all the typhoons that have impacted Taiwan since 1945. Spoiler alert, there's at least 269. So that means there are over three storms per year, on average.

unnamed (2)
unnamed (2)

FUTURE FORECAST

Computer models over the next 10 days predict meagre amounts of rainfall for the drought-stricken regions. Here's hoping Taiwan's luck turns and the wet season begins in earnest over the coming months, or these chip manufacturers might very well be in trouble.

Taiwan rainfall
Taiwan rainfall