Water levels of Lake Biwa hit 14-year low

NHK -- Nov 16
The water level in Japan's largest lake has fallen to a 14-year low, due to a lack of rain.

The central government and local authorities are monitoring the situation in Lake Biwa in western Japan, saying water curbs may become necessary should water levels continue to drop.

A less than normal amount of rain fell in Shiga Prefecture during the typhoon season. Last month's precipitation in Otsu City on the lake stood at 43 millimeters; that's 29 percent of the seasonal average.

The water level of Lake Biwa as of 6 a.m., Monday, was 63 centimeters below the benchmark line. The average level of the season stands at 36 centimeters below the line.

Lake Biwa supplies water to about 14.5 million residents and workers in the prefectures of Shiga, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo.

The land ministry's regional office which adjusts water levels of the lake, reduced the amount of water drawn from the lake to 15 tons per second, which is considered a minimal level of water usage for the area that it supplies.

In September 2002, water supplies were reduced for three months after the water level of Lake Biwa fell below minus 90 centimeters.

The head of the office says water levels could drop further. He added the officials will continue to monitor the weather and water levels in the Seta River that runs out of Lake Biwa.

The local weather observatory maintains water levels will remain low in the lake for the time being, as Shiga Prefecture gets little rain in November.

The prefectural government plans to set up a taskforce panel to discuss water discharge curbs should the water level drops to 65 centimeters below the benchmark.