The world’s leading foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. has the majority of its manufacturing on the island but is facing water usage issues at its major manufacturing sites. This is due to a drought affecting the whole of the populated western side of the island.

Meanwhile Samsung’s S2 Fab in Austin, Texas, was forced to cease operations because of rolling electricity supply black outs due to snow and extreme cold (see Qualcomm, Tesla, Renesas hit by Samsung’s Texan winter). Although the weather has improved in the region Business Korea has reported that Samsung is now suffering from a water shortage due to the freezing of local rivers and water supply networks.

Wafer fabs use very large amounts of water in most of the IC manufacturing steps particularly because surfaces have to be clean to the nanoscopic level between each process.

A website called Anue reports that due to an absence of typhoons across Taiwan in 2020 there is a lack of water in the Hsinchu region. The Hsinchu Baoshan second reservoir is 15.8 percent full and falling, Anue reported.

In the last few days the Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs has said that the water shortage in Taiwan has worsened, necessitating further restrictions, according to Taipei Times. The minister Wang Mei-hua told a news conference in Taipei that although 40mm of rain fell over the Chinese New Year holiday it was not enough to affect the country’s dwindling reserves of water.

The report added that Taiwan’s Water Resources Agency has said that industrial water use in Hsinchu, Miaoli and Taichung must be cut by 11 percent and industrial water users in Tainan and Chiayi are to cut use by 7 percent. Companies that do not adhere to the demands will have their water cut off.

The dry season does not end until May and weather forecasters have predicted February and March will be drier than usual, the report said.

Next: Working on it

TSMC has faced water use issues in the past and has established various water recycling strategies. TSMC is collecting air conditioning condensate water and rainwater to augment its supply and is building water reclamation plants.

The company states on its website that in 2019 the average recycling rate of the water used in production processes reached 86.7 percent and the total amount of water recycled by TSMC reached 133.6 million tons.

The website also states there is a 2021 goal for a water reclamation plant in Yongkang, Tainan – in the south of Taiwan – to be able to provide TSMC with 5,000 tons of water per day and for another water reclamation plant at TSMC Tainan Science Park to be able to provide 5,000 tons of water per day.

It is not clear whether those steps and others being taken are enough to meet the demands to curtail water use being placed upon TSMC. The alternative will be for TSMC to choke back wafer processing adding to global supply chain problems.

Taiwan as a whole was responsible for 21.8 percent of global chip supply in 2018 ahead of South Korea with 21.3 percent. These two places are homes to TSMC and Samsung, respectively.

Related links and articles:

Anue report

Taipei Times report

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Taiwan retains lead in global IC wafer capacity

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