Bangkok’s Salty Water Crisis Hits Government House ‘Lucky Trees’

A gardener at the Government House waters plants with specially-treated water on Jan. 17, 2020.
A gardener at the Government House waters plants with specially-treated water on Jan. 17, 2020.

BANGKOK — Even the powerful are now affected by the ongoing salty tap water crisis in the capital.

Officials today rushed in to save “auspicious trees” planted at Government House after they showed signs of withering under salty water pumped from the nearby Prem Prachakorn Canal. The salt-loaded water phenomenon, which struck the capital two weeks ago, is blamed on contamination of seawater.

According to reporters at Government House, the affected victims include white cheesewood (lamduan), sweet osmanthus (hom muen li), and butterfly bush (rachawadee). The flora is believed to bring in fortunes.

Gardening experts from the Department of Agriculture were summoned to alleviate the plant’s agony. Some plants that are sensitive to salinity were sprinkled with specially-treated water rather than the usual canal or tap water.

Beyond Government House’s well trimmed garden, residents of the capital continue to put up with their brackish tap water. Officials said the phenomenon was caused by storm surges at sea, which allowed salty seawater to interfere with the fresh water supply. 

Readings from the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority measured salinity at 0.48 grams/litre on Friday afternoon, nearly twice as much from the standard salinity of 0.25 grams/litre.

Although the agency maintained that tap water is still safe for consumption, health officials warned that patients with kidney disease should take caution of their salt intake.

PM Prayuth Chan-ocha’s advice for the public to boil water before use was widely ridiculed and criticized as tonedeaf on social media, though the government said it’s also trying other measures to alleviate the crisis.

The plans include diverting water down the Chao Phraya River in order to push salty water back to sea.