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Taiwan fabs ready water delivery as drought worsens

Posted: 14 Apr 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:fabs? drought? chipmakers? truck delivery?

Taiwan's chipmakers, including the world's largest chip foundry TSMC, are ready to ship water supplies to their fabs if drought conditions on the island get worse.

TSMC, a supplier to major electronics companies including Apple, Qualcomm, Nvidia and MediaTek, said it will use as many as 180 trucks, each with a capacity of about three metric tons, for water delivery to maintain operations at fab sites in Hsinchu, Taichung and Tainan in the event that the government tightens rationing.

"It all depends on the government," TSMC Director of Corporate Communications Elizabeth Sun told EE Times. If the government shuts off water supplies two days per week at TSMC's manufacturing sites, the chipmaker will start supplementing water supplies through truck delivery, she said.

Water level

The water level at Taiwan's Shihmen Dam (above) is the lowest for the period since it opened 51 years ago, according to Taiwan Today. (Source: CNA)

To be sure, TSMC has implemented recycling measures following a drought more than a decade ago that forced the company to resort to costly truck deliveries. TSMC's fabs today operate at an 87 per cent recycling rate for the 90,000 metric tons of water used daily at its sites in Taiwan.

United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) says it is similarly prepared.

"If the Taiwan government elevates its restriction measures, UMC already has additional contingency measures in place to accommodate up to a 20 per cent reduction in public water allocation, including the purchase and transport of sufficient amounts of water from third-party sources," UMC spokesman Richard Yu said in a March 20 email. "Since the beginning of the year, UMC has proactively conserved an additional 3 per cent water on top of our existing manufacturing water recycling rate of more than 85 per cent."

Stage-three rationing

In more seriously affected parts of the island, the Taiwan government has already started its third stage of rationing to cut water supplies two days a week. For some companies that consume at least 1,000 metric tons of water each month, the government has reduced the water supply by up to 10 per cent.

Taiwan's rainfall from October through March is the lowest since 1947, when the government started keeping records. The Water Resource Agency is forecasting a "high likelihood" of drier weather in the next three months.

Taiwan accounts for about a fifth of the world's installed fab capacity, according to IC Insights. The island also has a number of LCD makers, including Innolux Corp. and AU Optronics.

- Alan Patterson
??EE Times

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