Fresh, clean water has been in short supply on the outlying islands of Palau for many years. Rainfall variation, often associated with El Niño and La Niña events, has caused storage tanks to run dry, and forced people to rely on coconut water for hydration, especially in the atoll islands.
The five outlying islands – Angaur, Hatohobei, Sonsorol, Kayangel and Peleliu – span about 700 km from north to south, and are home to approximately 1350 people. Depending on weather and tides, it can take several days to travel by boat to the most distant islands.
The Government of Palau requested assistance from SPC to help them improve water quality and security for the outlying island states through the Global Climate Change Alliance: Pacific Small Island States (GCCA: PSIS) project. The GCCA: PSIS team recommended water improvement measures according to each island’s needs.
In Sonsorol, large water cisterns were repaired, and it was determined that if used conservatively by the islanders, they could store enough water for up to one year.
Back-up water tanks were provided for the community centre in Angaur, and a large groundwater well was refurbished to ensure the supply of water during natural disasters such as cyclones.
In Peleliu, part of the problem related to poor maintenance and lack of spare parts. Teams from the Palau Public Utilities Corporation repaired leaks in existing water tanks and pipes, and worked to standardise materials used.
In the northern state of Kayangel, generators were supplied to maintain water supply after TyphoonHaiyan.
Transporting tanks, and installing them on islands such as Hatohobei, Sonsorol and Helen Reef was not an easy process. The islands are hundreds of kilometres from Koror; shipping services are irregular; and unloading facilities are inadequate.
John Kintaro, Project Coordinator with the GCCA: PSIS project, said it was important for people to be aware of water quality and protect their water sources. “We are installing leaf-eaters and devices that prevent dirt getting into the rainwater tank”, he said.
“What really helped to bridge the gap was clear and consistent communication”, said Xavier Matsutaro, Associate Climate Change Coordinator of the Office of Environmental Response and Coordination.
The project included designing and implementing Palau’s first water operators certification programme. An extensive water conservation education and awareness program – Wonder of Water – was also developed, and included materials in Palauan, the local language.
The President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau Jr, has been campaigning for urgent action on climate change at both the national and international level. Palau’s climate change policy, developed with support from the GCCA: PSIS project, GIZ (German aid agency), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), addresses climate- and disaster-resilient low-emission development, and is supported by a five-year action plan covering 10 different sectors.
The EUR 11.4 million GCCA: PSIS project is building resilience in food and water security, health, and coastal protection in nine small Pacific Island countries. This will assist around 147,000 people – more than half the combined populations of Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Tonga and Tuvalu.
- Five outlying islands of Palau took part in the project to improve water quality and security.
- Each island was assessed and water improvements were made according to local needs.
- Large water cisterns were repaired on Sonsorol, while on Peleliu, teams repaired leaks in existing tanks and pipes.