JEJU, Dec. 21 (Korea Bizwire) – The lowest groundwater levels measured in Jeju since such efforts began in 2003 have caused uneasy voices to call for concerted conservation efforts.
Authorities from South Korea’s only island province announced the findings on December 21 after perusing groundwater data derived from the 68 monitoring wells installed throughout Jeju. They revealed that measured groundwater levels in various areas recently were on average 3.3m lower than the same period last year.
Compared to 2003, the disparity in groundwater levels was an average 3.58m. There was considerable variance among individual locations; one area’s groundwater level was 30.33m lower.
Despite the decreases, the recorded levels are still safely above Level 2, a limit that once crossed requires intervention through methods such as a temporary stoppage of water supply.
The average was 2.35m higher than the Level 2 limit, while individual monitoring wells’ measurements ranged from 0.24 m to 14.54 m above the threshold.
Seven monitoring wells in northern and western Jeju were revealed to have measured groundwater levels below Level 2, however.
The biggest reason for the drop has to do with the 48 percent decline in accumulated rainwater at Mount Hallasan’s peak compared to last year. Precipitation collected at Jeju’s tallest mountain from January through November is a major source that replenishes Jeju’s aquifers. Regions closer to ground level also had less accumulated rain water, with only 71 percent of last year’s levels.
With little precipitation expected through winter, groundwater levels will likely continue to drop until April and May and the ensuing spring rainfall.
Authorities have vowed to keep a closer eye on water sources as they may be contaminated by sea water, should there be an extended drought and groundwater levels stay on a persistent downward trajectory.
The OECD in the Environmental Outlook to 2050 has predicted that South Korea will face the most severe water shortages of any OECD country in the future. Though water shortages are not a present-day problem, some who are alarmed at the thought of Jeju becoming a “desert island” have begun to stress the importance of preventative solutions.