Water situation getting more desperate on Tuvalu | Pacific Beat

Water situation getting more desperate on Tuvalu

Water situation getting more desperate on Tuvalu

Posted 10 October 2011, 12:34 AEDT

Today the Australian Air Force will work with the New Zealand army to take a large desalination plant to Samoa.

The water it produces will be flown to Tuvalu to supply desperate communities.

More than a week ago, a state of emergency was declared in Tuvalu and Tokelau due to severe water shortages blamed on a long drought.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Sumeo Silu, Tuvalu's disaster co-ordinator

SILU: Right now the water is depleting very fast in Funafuti, especially in Funafuti and government storage and even the community storage are getting very, very low, so in fact we don't have much water for the total population of 5,300 people on Funafuti.

COUTTS: So this desalination plant can't get there fast enough for you and the people of Tuvalu?

SILU: No, it is not enough at the moment. Currently, we're still having this government one with 50 cubic metre and similarly we're receiving only about 30 to 40 cubic metre, because of the current one is old and the capacity is not that much.

COUTTS: And so are you still on water rationing?

SILU: Of course, yes, that's what we are currently doing and we feel sorry for the people, because they need more water, because we only rationing 40 litres per household and that's enough, and that's well below the UN rate.

COUTTS: How are you doing that? Have you got trucks that are going around or do the households have to go and collect it?

SILU: Well actually, we have put strategic area, we put the tanks on seven strategic area along the island and we, the government do serve water in these tanks and we divided the island into zones and so the people on each zone come to fetch water from these water tanks, yes.

COUTTS: How do they do that though, because 40 litres of water would be quite heavy to cart?

SILU: Oh, well actually, that's how we do it but people could manage, put it on their motorbikes and those who live quite far from this point. They could travel on their motorbike or bicycle or hand cart. They just cart their water from this point.

COUTTS: OK, and I'm still not quite sure how much water is left, how many days supply have to got left?

SILU: It's really, really less. We're looking at about three days.

COUTTS: Three days, OK. Now the desalination plant is about to arrive. Do you know how long it will take to assemble it and get it working?

SILU: According to a source from the New Zealand army here, it will take us about Wednesday to Thursday and then the machine will start running, yeah.

COUTTS: But how is that powered?

SILU: Well, I was told that they will bring their own generator with them and so they powered the desal.

COUTTS: But looking further ahead, what are the long term water solutions for Tuvalu?

SILU: Well, according to climatic prediction the current pattern will keep on like this until next year, the beginning of next yea,r and we have a plan now to install, to have a desal plant solar power one for one each island and that's one of our long term plan in place and we have been asked our donors if they can assist with that. We are planning to have placed each island with one solar powered desalination plant.

COUTTS: So the La Nina weather pattern according to your information will continue like this in drought conditions for another year?

SILU: Yes, definitely, yes.

COUTTS: Will you have enough power or will that come with the desalination plant if you get one for each island. Will you have enough power for all of the islands and will they come with their own generators?

SILU: What we request for is we need the solar powered, solar powered desal plant, which we think is much appropriate in this current situation.

COUTTS: Alright then. So you think that the water situation is under control now?

SILU: No, no, no, no, we are not in that situation. We're still in a situation of water shortage, but we plan to have a desal plant for each island which may ease the problem in a sense, yes.

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