BANGKOK, March 9 (Reuters) - Thailand is facing its worst water shortage in two decades, government officials said on Wednesday, with water rationing being imposed in some provinces and hotels told to minimise their laundry loads.
As Thailand enters its dry season, water levels in the country’s biggest dams are at their lowest since 1994, said Suthep Noipairoj, director-general of the Royal Irrigation Department.
“This year sees the lowest irrigation water level since 1994,” Suthep told Reuters.
Thailand is also facing drought in 14 of 77 provinces, while 31 other provinces are at risk, according to the Interior Ministry.
Since October, the government has rolled out measures worth 23 billion baht ($651.56 million) to help farmers cope with drought, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
The water crisis has led to some officials warning citizens not to consume too much water during the Songkran festival, also known as the water festival, which is celebrated in April and marks the start of Thailand’s traditional New Year.
It has also put a strain on local administrations in drought-hit provinces who have had to ration their water supplies until at least June, when the country’s rainy or monsoon season is expected to begin.
In Chanthaburi, 250 km (155 miles) southeast of the Thai capital Bangkok, the waterworks authority is releasing water for public use in the morning and evening only, said Wisoot Prakorbkwamdee, chief of the province’s disaster prevention and mitigation office.
The water shortage has hit some hotels in a country where tourism accounts for around 10 percent of GDP.
The Thai Hotel Association has asked 700 hotels to save water by giving out fewer towels to hotel guests to minimise their wash load, among other measures, said Supawan Tanomkieatipume, the association’s vice president.
$1 = 35.3000 baht Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Nick Macfie