TAICHUNG, Taiwan — Lin Wei-Yi once gave little thought to the water sluicing through her shower nozzle, kitchen faucet and garden hose.
But as Taiwan’s worst drought in more than half a century has deepened in recent weeks, Ms. Lin, 55, has begun keeping buckets by the taps. She adopted a neighbor’s tip to flush the toilet five times with a single bucket of water by opening the tank and directly pouring it in. She stopped washing her car, which became so filthy that her children contort themselves to avoid rubbing against it.
The monthslong drought has nearly drained Taiwan’s major reservoirs, contributed to two severe electricity blackouts and forced officials to restrict the water supply. It has brought dramatic changes to the island’s landscape: The bottoms of several reservoirs and lakes have been warped into cracked, dusty expanses that resemble desert floors. And it has transformed how many of Taiwan’s 23.5 million residents use and think about water.
“We used too much water before,” Ms. Lin said this week in the central city of Taichung. “Now we have to adapt to a new normal.”
No typhoons made landfall in Taiwan last year, the first time since 1964. Tropical cyclones are a prime source of precipitation for the island’s reservoirs. Some scientists say the recent lack of typhoons is part of a decades-long pattern linked to global warming, in which the intensity of storms hitting Taiwan has increased but their annual frequency has decreased.
Ordinary rainfall has also been drastically lower than normal this year, particularly in the central region that includes Taichung, a city of 2.8 million people and the second-largest on the island. The water shortage could begin to ease this weekend if heavy rains arrive on Saturday, as some forecasters predict. But as of Friday, the water levels at two main reservoirs that supply Taichung and other central cities were hovering between 1 percent and 2 percent of normal capacity.
In a few cases, the usual residents of the island’s lakes and reservoirs — fish — were replaced by other species: tourists and social media influencers taking pictures of the visually startling terrain for Instagram posts. In one of the most photogenic locations, Sun Moon Lake, a reservoir in central Taiwan, the receding waterline has revealed tombstones that historians say may date to the Qing dynasty.
“It’s been meltingly hot in Taichung for a while now,” said Huang Ting-Hsiang, 27, a chef who works out of his home and stopped cooking last month for lack of water. “The images of the dangerously low levels at those reservoirs are scary, but there’s nothing we can do.”
To fight the drought, the government has been drawing water from wells and seawater desalination plants, flying planes and burning chemicals to seed clouds above reservoirs, and halting irrigation over an area of farmland nearly the size of New York City.
It has also severely restricted residential water deliveries. In…