HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 650: 23 January 2013

Where’s the water?

Water levels now becoming critical

The shortage of water to many households has become quite acute in the past two weeks.
The water pressure figures issued by the Water Division of MOIP do little to ally the fears of households that in fact have had no water for the past two weeks. It is only in the last few days that the Water Division has issued a public notice to conserve water.
According to the Water Division’s latest report on pressure readings as at 22 November, the Water Division says; “Since the beginning of the month, there’s a clear indication of the gradually decrease of water pressure for all water intakes. As of last week, this gradual decrease was more evident that it is affecting all water intakes and that the levels clearly decreased and more intakes are below the 50% level. The lack of rain has started to take effect on the eastern and southern sides of Rarotonga and as shown on this morning’s water pressure reading. The demand also has been very high due to the hot summer weather we are experiencing and some water intakes has been supplying a greater and increased area than its normal daily operations. Avana water intake has been one of these intakes supplying the northern/eastern sector and also the southern low sectors.”
Successive governments have done little to ensure water security. During this recent period of intensive focus on climate change, very little attention has been given to the matter of water collection, storage and security.
Years ago, government should have built one to three large reservoirs in the valleys. At the same time these reservoirs could be generating hydro-electric power and be provided with treatment and filtration devices.
With tourism growing at the rate of 6% per year, it makes sense to increase the size of the water collection facilities.
At present the country has no long range strategy and few policies regarding water usage especially in times of drought.
More research should also be commissioned into the underground water supply. Previous research on this has been useful but incomplete. A more comprehensive picture is needed of how much water is underground.
The current applicable legislation is the “Rarotonga Waterworks Ordinance 1960” which came into effect on 1 April 1961. Under Section 8(1) consumers must pay three pounds per year for their water and under Section 8(2) commercial users must pay six pounds per year.
A draft Bill, the “Water Resources Management Act 2006” was intended to replace the 1960 ordinance but to date, this Bill has not been enacted.
As to what happens now, the Water Division report concludes; “The activities on the water intake from the month of October to this morning, show the low in water pressure indicating the low flow we have up in our water intakes. The pressure readings show that the hot summer weather we have at the moment has increased the demand and therefore straining our resources up at the intakes. The flow data also shows that the flow in the streams has also decreased therefore cannot meet and keep up with the demand. As of this morning, all water intakes are below 50% of normal operation capacity and are heading towards the critical level of 30%. When each sector hits the 30% level, then Water Restrictions should be activated within these sectors to control and monitor the usage of the available water we have.

Herald Issue 608 21 March
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- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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