Nguyen Thanh Quang, director of the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said: "The drought situation has reached alarming levels and most pumping stations on the Thu Bon River cannot operate because of water shortage and intrusion of saltwater."
Thousands of ha of summer-autumn rice and other crops in northern districts like Dai Loc, Dien Ban, and Duy Xuyen face a serious water shortage and are in danger of withering, he said.
Since June 26, with temperatures ranging at 37-38 degrees Celsius, little rain, and small volumes of water released from reservoirs, the water level in the Vu Gia – Thu Bon River system has fallen dramatically, allowing saline water to enter deep into the Thu Bon and Vinh Dien rivers.
Some 6,000ha of rice in the Vu Gia basin, 2,000ha in the Thu Bon basin, and 1,000ha depending on water from reservoirs face a severe water shortage and high likelihood of damage, according to the department.
Water supply in Dien Ban and Duy Xuyen Districts and Hoi An has also been affected.
"There is a chance of having a bad harvest on a large area, so we are mobilising all measures and human resources to save the rice crop," Quang said.
The department earlier this week inspected the damage caused by drought in Dien Ban District and decided to dredge several rivers to increase water supply to pumping stations.
The Vinh Dien River will be dredged at its mouth to increase the flow of water from the Thu Bon River into the Vinh Dien River, helping keep out saline water and ensure adequate supply of water to the Tu Cau, Cam Sa, and Vinh Dien pumping stations and Hoi An.
A section of the Vu Gia River that supplies water to the Ai Nghia Public Pumping Station will also be dredged to save more than 400ha of rice in Dai Loc District.
The Quang Ngai Irrigation Exploitation Company has built a sand dyke in the Chiem Son River to keep out saltwater and ensure supply to the Xuyen Dong Public Pumping Station to save 1,000ha of rice in Duy Xuyen District.
It has also set up pumping stations to draw water from ponds to irrigate 500ha of rice in Dien Ban, Duy Xuyen, and Thang Binh Districts.
On Tuesday the department urged the province People's Committee and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to instruct hydroelectric plants in upper stream areas to release water for irrigation and daily use in the dry season.
It also sought VND15 billion (US$710,000) to carry out urgent anti-drought works.
The People's Committee last month decided build 295 small irrigation projects at a cost of VND140 billion ($6.6 million) by 2015.
They will provide water for nearly 3,900ha of agricultural land.
This year the People's Committee has allocated VND37 billion for localities to develop small irrigation projects.
Last year it spent more than VND35 billion to upgrade 52km of canals to supply water for 2,300ha.
It also completed 45 small irrigation projects that supply water for 1,093ha of rice and other crops last year.