River Pollution: Prevention and Treatment


Taiwan is a small and populous island with a large number of factories, factors which have placed a heavy burden on the environment. Rivers in Taiwan do not have strong self-cleaning and assimilative capacities, and are therefore polluted to different degrees. To improve water quality, the EPA has initiated various programs at different stages. The "Study of pollution remediation on management systems in the TanShui River" has been implemented since the 1980s, and the "Drinking Water Source Water Quality Protection Guidelines" has been implemented since 1988. According to these programs, the government removes pig farms from the basin of five rivers, compensates the farmers, and removes illegal metal processing factories at the source of Erren River. "Phase One of River and Ocean Management in Taiwan (2001-2004)" was the first, and highly innovative, natural cleansing and on-site treatment program that combines ecological protection and sustainable management. The program promotes water quality purification and pollutant control to effectively alleviate river pollution.

To continue the improvement of water quality, the EPA implemented the "Framework Plan for Protecting the Quality of Drinking Water Sources" from 2005 to 2007 and different plans are designed based on the features of the rivers. The plan involves:

(1) strengthening pollution control, starting from sources of pollutants

(2) improving the water quality of rivers, starting from mildly polluted rivers

(3) protecting the sources of drinking water, starting from upstream water sources

(4) cleaning the garbage in rivers, starting from segments passing through urban areas, extending to the entire river

(5) educating and encouraging public participation; setting up voluntary river patrols

(6) improving the river pollution emergency response system within the overall response system

(7) assessing the alternative of commissioning wastewater treatment factories to treat river or household wastewater.

After years of effort, the water quality has been improved (see the table) and the segments of seriously polluted rivers were reduced in total length from 459.2km (15.8% of all rivers) in 2003 to 173.9km(6%) in 2006. In 2002 and 2003, 85 observation stations reported serious pollution, whereas the numbers started decreasing from 2004; in 2006 only 38 stations reported serious pollution, accounting for 12% of all stations.

To continue the improvement of water quality and alleviate water pollution, the EPA will continue the pollution prevention programs for major rivers, and implement a water quality recovery program on five urban rivers: Tienlao River in Keelung, Jhonggangdapai in Taipei County, Erren River, Fengshan River in Kaohsiung and Wannien River in Pingtung. These programs will effectively improve water quality and therefore the landscape of the region, thus providing more recreational area for the public.

The progress of river water quality over the years

Degree of pollution 1993 1996 1999 2000 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
None (%) 61.1 62.4 66.2 63.6 61.1 59.5 63.8 64.2 65.8 61.8 65.2
Minor (%) 13.9 10.4 7.6 12.0 13.2 13.4 9.6 9.9 8.7 7.9 9
Mild (%) 12.1 12.3 14.2 12.3 9.8 11.3 19.7 19.7 19.5 23.6 21.5
Heavy (%) 12.9 14.9 12.0 12.1 15.9 15.8 6.2 6.2 6.0 6.7 4.2

Inappropriate development in the upstream regions, e.g. the establishment of orchards or tea farms and other non-point source pollution, has caused the water quality of reservoirs in Taiwan to deteriorate. In 2005, eutrophication (aging of a lake owing to the biological enrichment of the water) occurred in six reservoirs.

In 2006, eutrophication occurred in eight reservoirs. To improve the water quality of reservoirs, the EPA cooperates with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which published "Reservoir Conservation Guidelines." During the first stage, the government will focus on the water conservation of the Feitsui, Shihmen, Deji, Tsengwen and the lakes and reservoirs in Kinmen. This is expected to improve water quality and reduce deposits.

Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)
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