The Island's thirst: Empowering Kiritimati's journey to safe water

Communities in Kiritimati Island are developing their strength around accessing and managing safe drinking water, through an exciting Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)-based training supported by the Pacific Community (SPC), in partnership with UNICEF and the Government of Kiribati through the Water & Sanitation Division Ministry of Line and Phoenix Islands Development (MLPID) and the Environmental Health Department.

The training began in May 2023 building on a previous basic household plumbing workshop conducted in 2022 and developed in response to a community engagement survey that highlighted the need to build capacity in testing and treating water as well as undertaking basic plumbing upgrades within local communities.

What makes this training so unique and empowering? 

This is no typical classroom!  The training focused on topics such as basic plumbing, leak repair, water treatment, source protection, water quality testing, handpump construction, rainwater catchment construction and toilet options. The practical and hands-on approach was led by locals and was adapted to the needs and interests of the communities.

SPC’ Kiritimati Island Water Project and MLPID’s Water and Sanitation Division (WSD) have worked together to build demonstrations such as DIY (do-it-yourself) hand pumps, rainwater catchments, and household plumbing configurations, to facilitate the learning experience so participants can touch, feel and trial as they learn.


Water on a remote atoll is especially precious (with Kiritimati Island now coming out of its worst drought on record), yet water supply systems are riddled with leaks and nearly all sources are contaminated.  Communities can play an integral part in improving reliability, sustainability, and access to safe drinking water on the island. Further, fixing a leaking tap can save households hundreds of dollars each year, while also conserving water for others to use,” said SPC’s Kiritimati Island Water Project Coordinator, Jake Ward.

WSD's Assistant Water Engineer and training co-facilitator, Ms. Pualua Polau said participants have been very engaged in the sessions and are looking forward to using their new skills to address issues in the community.


“This is an excellent way of encouraging people, in Kiritimati Island, to utilise safe drinking water while also sustaining their water sources at household and community levels. These participants are now advocates for safe drinking water, who can showcase best practices to all members of the community on how to obtain safe and sustainable drinking water and manage existing resources."

Tawaana Tenonoki from Banana village shared how the training has been an opportunity for her to learn about the communities’ water sources and various ways to improve water quality in addition to the different water treatment options. “This training is an eye-opener! What’s very important for me is that, after knowing all the available water treatment options from this training, I am now able to treat drinking water at home in a way that is less time-consuming but more effective than how I used to do it for my family.”

Members of the WASH club’s youth wing also made sure everyone remained engaged during the sessions through dances and role-plays based on the World Water Day theme Accelerating Change to solve the water and sanitation crisis.

Where is the training conducted?

The training was conducted at all villages on the atoll island, namely London, Tabwakea, Banana and Poland where everyone, women, men, students, youth groups, the elderly and people living with disabilities were invited to participate and host training sessions in mwaneabas (traditional meeting house).

Feedback from participants and facilitators will be used to develop the 2024 programme catering to people’s needs while supporting the Kiribati government’s campaign to improve water and sanitation on Kiritimati Island.

SPC’s Kiritimati Island Water Project will continue to promote water conservation and protection measures by supporting the Kiribati Government and Kiritimati citizens to develop, manage, monitor, and maintain water supply infrastructure and resources on Kiritimati Island.

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