Western Japan got a brief respite from its record dry spell Friday, but water levels in many reservoirs are way below normal, and the region could face a serious drought if more rainfall fails to arrive, experts have warned.
It is supposed to be the height of the rainy season, but western Japan — including Shikoku and the Chugoku and Tokai regions — witnessed unusually little rain in June.
According to the Meteorological Agency, the area last month posted its lowest rainfall and highest temperatures since 1946, with precipitation 34 percent below average.
On Friday, however, torrential rain hit the Chugoku region as well as Shikoku and Kyushu, delaying trains and blocking roads.
But if the dry spell continues, experts warn that those regions might face a serious drought as early as mid-July. The lack of rain, they say, is already affecting various industries and people’s lives.
According to the agency, western Japan has had little rain because the seasonal frontal system has remained stationary over the ocean to the south.
Although the Sea of Japan coast is expected to have the same level of rainfall as usual this summer, the rainfall over the Pacific coast is expected to be less than average, the agency said.
Given such predictions, local government officials are bracing for a drought.
In the city of Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, within the 17 days between June 11 when the rainy season began, and Monday, it had 11.5 mm of rainfall, which is only 8 percent of the average year.
The Tokai region also had little rain. The area’s four main dams since April have only had 40 percent of an average year.
As a result, most reservoirs in western Japan are only half full.
The water level in the Sameura Dam in Kochi Prefecture, a major reservoir for Shikoku, had dropped to about 25 percent as of Friday, according to officials of the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry
Friday’s torrential rain lifted the water level by some 17 mm, but it was just a drop in the bucket compared with the overall volume, and supplies will continue to be limited to two irrigation channels serving Kagawa and Tokushima prefectures, they said.
The officials warn that this summer may see the lowest water level in the reservoir’s history. The previous worst was experienced in 1994.
If the area continues to have no rain, the reservoir is expected to dry up by around July 16, they said.
The town of Kagawa, Kagawa Prefecture, which fully depends on water from the dam, started Wednesday shutting off the town’s taps between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
In the Kinki region, three dams, including the Osako Dam in Nara Prefecture, have also cut water supply by 30 percent for agricultural use and by 10 percent for industrial use. As of Tuesday, the level of water in the Osako Dam was 35.7 percent.
Officials of the land ministry’s Kinki Bureau said the pace of water level decline in reservoirs is much faster than usual.
Also on Tuesday, the level of water in Lake Biwa was down by 29 cm, having dropped by 1 cm every day.
Hit hard by the water shortage, some rice farmers have already given up on planting.
In Okayama Prefecture, rice growth has been slow in nearly 60 percent of paddies in southern part of the prefecture, according to officials of the Okayama Prefectural Agricultural Cooperative.
“We need rain. If this situation continues for one more week, our rice crops will be severely damaged,” an agricultural co-op official said.
In the prefecture’s orchards, peaches that are an Okayama specialty are also smaller than usual, according to the cooperative.
The water shortage is also affecting rivers, including the Hino River in Tottori Prefecture, which is drastically low.
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