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Summary of discussion on freshwater supplies in small islands, Fiji

Number of substantive responses = ??

Responses focusing directly on Fiji's water problems

Solomoni Biumaiono, Fiji
Jone Kalouniviti, Fiji
S. D. Limaye, India
Mohini Prasad, Fiji
Michael Taylor, New Zealand
Seremaia Temo

Sources of water - general

Mike Baker, France
Jerry Berne, USA
O. Carlyle Bourne, Barbados
Arnaldo Coro Antich, Cuba
Portia Sweeting, The Bahamas

Rainwater harvesting

Gael Arnold, New Zealand
Carol Busby, Cayman Islands
Susan Field, British Virgin Islands
V Moelagi Jackson, Samoa
Elizabeth Khaka, Kenya
Leba Mataitini, Fulaga, Fiji
Leba Mataitini, Fulaga, Fiji (2)
Janot-Reine Mendler, USA
Anne Outwater
D. R. Perni, India
Alex Perrine, Rodrigues
K. D. Pillay, Seychelles
R. Rethinam, Indonesia
Sharon, Mauritius
Elizabeth Taylor, San Andres Island
L. Tuitubou, Fiji
Tuvmet, Tuvalu

Underground water

Linus Digim'rina, Papua New Guinea
Ben Tanaki, Niue


Sarah Buhagiar
Sabra Kauka
Jeffrey M. Parker

Water conservation measures

Anna Allen, Palau
I. A. Economides, Cyprus
Doug Fraser, Tasmania, Australia
Peter Hehanussa, Indonesia
Theo Isamu, Palau
Mavis Koroiuli, Fiji
Mark List, USA
Carol Steinfeld, USA

Vikash Tatayah, Mauritius
Writer in Cook Islands

International water programmes

Solomoni Biumaiono, Fiji
Clive Carpenter, UK
Peni Leavai, Samoa
Raj H Prayag, Mauritius

Privatisation of water supply

Matthias J. Ewarmai, Federated States of Micronesia

Other comments

Paul Diamond, Virgin
Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Cyril de Silva, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Peter Hitchins Richard Murphy

Responses focusing directly on Fiji's water problems

From Solomoni Biumaiono, Fiji

I would just like to add a bit of comment to the ones made already. Water in Fiji is not really the problem. We have more than enough water sources from which we can procure clean and safe drinking water. The only problem is the water distribution system that our Government uses to cart it to the public. It's a relic of the colonial era when the population in Suva was below 20,000. Now that its population is nearing the 100,000 mark, the demand placed on these old pipes and mains has worsened the problem resulting in low water pressure and burst mains and leakage.

Another factor that has placed a huge strain on the water system is the existence of squatter settlements which have mushroomed in recent years as the rural to urban migration continues at an increasing pace compared to the 1980s and 90s.

However, Government has been upgrading its water system to cater for this and it has resulted in the construction of more reservoirs and more water mains which can cater to the demands.

The problem in Dokaisuva is not a unique one but rather a result of poor planning over the years but at least things are now underway and Government has even procured a loan from the Asian Development Bank to ease the water shortages in the greater Suva area.

From Jone Kalouniviti, Fiji

Could I just add on to what Mr Biumaiono has already stated; I am a journalist of the Fiji Sun Newspaper here. I just returned from a one week excursion into the Dreketi Highlands up in Macuata, Vanua Levu the second biggest island in Fiji.

The village of Nabavatu in Dreketi houses 135 nuclear families in 90 houses. Dreketi is an area full of bore holes and water measured at PH levels of 5 (one of the best in the country) is prevalent in the numerous springs around Dreketi.

Like Mr Biumaiono has stated, the problem is access to this plentiful supply.

The oldest man living in Nabavatu village is 85 years of age, yet he cannot remember when the colonial masters built the existing water storage tank which the villagers still use today. Yes it is quite a feat of engineering for it still stands strong, the problem is the piping system government has put in place little by little over time resulting in continuous repairs which are the root of all the problems.

The same is experienced throughout Dreketi, villagers have to practically walk up to the bore holes to get water.

From S. D. Limaye, India

I would like to ask a few questions to the people of Dokaisuva, Fiji:

1. Is there a village water committee in Dokaisuva, Fiji?

2. Are they promoting roof water harvesting? Is there any subsidy from Government for such collection of rainwater?

3. If storage of roof water in drums or PVC tanks is expensive, is it possible to recharge it to the shallow aquifer?

4. Is there a village tank or pond? Has it been de-silted or deepened recently to store more rain water?

From Mohini Prasad, Fiji

I reside in Sawani, past Dokanaisuva. I drive past this place on a daily basis and always see residents lining up along the main road to collect water from the tanks carted on the trucks. It is a common sight. But what is a sore sight is that at times I have seen the truck drivers of the trucks carting water driving the trucks in quiet places and draining the water from the water tank on the ground. I only wish I had a video camera on me at those times. I fail to understand what is causing the disruption in water supply. There had been a fair bit of noise in the not so recent past that there are a fair few private contractors who supply trucks for carting of water tanks. I wonder if the benefit to be gained by these contractors is the underlying reason for disruptions in the water service.

From Michael Taylor, New Zealand

If Fiji is short of drinking-water, why is it exporting bottled water?

From Seremaia Temo

Well something to think if it happens to all us we will all be jumping!!!...Since they are normal people nothing could be done anyway!!!!. But if it was a member of the Parliament or Minister in the Government the services provided would be different...Maybe it's how the government of the day is providing their services...Well next year is election period, I advise all consumers not to worry because then people will be out to buy votes. Maybe the services will be efficient by then and if not please think again before you cast your vote!!!!! Vote for the ordinary person who can provide the service...


Sources of water - general

From Mike Baker, France


As the problem of rainwater collection is not limited to small islands should you not also contact people/organizations active in arid and semi-arid regions? For example in some such regions houses are built on water tanks and the rainwater, especially from the roof, is channelled directly into the tanks.

As to the reverse osmosis some countries with coastal regions, little freshwater and plenty of solar energy use solar panels to generate the energy, others use wind turbines. Some work has also been done on using solar energy to evaporate the water and then condense the water vapour. Quite a lot of work has been done, especially in the Andes, on the use of different materials to collect fog - could be tried on sea fogs!

Has anybody out there been using mixes of fresh and seawater - what about for cooking?

From Jerry Berne, USA

This lament may be becoming true for many small islands. Yet the most mentioned cause, drought, is not the only culprit.

Ms. Taylor's mention of saline intrusion into water systems is a clue to one of the most overlooked manmade impacts helping to create this crisis. Many islands are now dredging deep and long navigational channels for cruise ships and are armouring or employing beach nourishment in counterproductive attempts to save tourist beaches. The navigational dredging pushes salt water deeply inland and contributes to increasing the volume of fresh water moved rapidly out of inland water systems. Traditionally engineered erosion "protection" structures and beach nourishment are both shown to increase erosion and harm coastal environmental systems. This increased erosion allows salt water intrusion into surficial coastal aquifers.

While it is critical that practical natural water storage facilities are employed, we are far to cavalier about the far reaching environmental impacts of manipulating the geography of the nearshore by dredging. The data continues to demonstrate the ill effects of such processes. The failure to adopt more sustainable and environmentally sound technologies to mitigate these negative effects is leading to the potential collapse of our coastal systems.

From O. Carlyle Bourne, Barbados

Dear readers, I suggest that you try the website: www.ircsa.org

From Arnaldo Coro Antich, Cuba

The Island of Cuba is the main one of the Cuban archipelago. There is another "big-small island", the Isle of Youth that is about one tenth of the area of Cuba or so. During the past five years the eastern part of the island of Cuba has gone through a severe drought that has caused great problems to the people living there, as the water reservoirs have gone dry in many places, and the underground water resources have dried up or "salted" due to proximity to the coast. The Cuban National Institute of Water Resources "Instituto Nacional de Recursos Hidraulicos" is the Cuban government agency in charge of the water supply and conservation and it is now involved in a very comprehensive effort to help those people in need of water due to the drought, using many different approaches... For example the city of Holguin, with about three hundred thousand population, is now receiving a "water supply train of tank cars" from a remote water source... and the city of Las Tunas is now getting water through a new pipeline of more than 50 km length, a very expensive solution for the Cuban economy.

One of the aspects that I believe is very important is the media campaign about water conservation, that is using all resources including radio, TV, the print mass media and the distribution of leaflets and pamphlets to encourage water conservation and rational use.

The drought is so bad that plans are in the works to use, once again, an aircraft overflying the cumulus clouds to seed them with sodium iodide crystals or frozen CO2 in order to enhance the cloud's probabilities of becoming a "rain cloud" over the island. Last but not least, a national program for the reforestation of the eight most important river basins is now in progress, with the hope that when those trees planted grow up, they will help to bring in more clouds and consequently more water.

From Portia Sweeting, The Bahamas

I teach and live on New Providence (Nassau). Most of the water used on Nassau is barged from another island in our chain. Recently, bad weather coupled with mechanical difficulties have, on numerous occasions, prevented water from being barged to our island. During the day, as a conservation measure, the water company would cut the water supply. Now that's normally not so bad for homes, but schools, etc that depend solely on that supply usually have a hard time coping.

My students have designed, produced and distributed a brochure on the conservation of water. The water company has attained our permission to mass produce our brochure for their customers. The government is also proposing a reverse osmosis water system for our island.

Rainwater harvesting

From Gael Arnold, New Zealand

Hi there, a suggestion. Perhaps you could make contact with Bermuda. It is a small island in the Atlantic and copes well under the circumstances with regards to collecting rain water. The house roofs are kept spotless as this is the collection point for all their rain water. I do not have a comparison of the amount of rain they may receive in a years as compared to Fiji.

See http://www.kbb.bm/

From Carol Busby, Cayman Islands

I live on Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands. We rely mostly on a reverse osmosis plant. That was not true until 1989 when it went in. Before that everyone had cisterns or natural wells. In our case our island is honeycombed with natural wells being made of limestone and caymonite (semi-precious stone). It is only 2 miles wide at its widest point and 12 miles long with a gradual bluff rising to 145 feet above sea level. My neighbour's hand dug well back in the 1920s, or maybe before, is deep, approx 100 feet and over 2,000 feet from the sea shore. When you stick your head down in it you can hear the sea and you know it's coming in and the water is good. No smell, no taste, it is filtered seawater mixed with rain water. We also have on parts of the island brackish water, which is more salt, smells of iron and sulphur.

I am living on cistern water which includes what the heavens will give me and for the last year I have brought from our water plant 2,500 gallons every five weeks since September 2004 at a cost of Cayman Islands $70 equal to US$87.50. We have not had any sizeable rain since then. A serious drought and I have lived on Cayman Brac for 14 years.

From Susan Field, British Virgin Islands

Hello, I am a writer, living in The British Virgin Islands and occasionally, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Recently, during a series of downpours, my friend mentioned to me that she had simply 'caught the rain water' to use during that storm and if the power went out. A simple idea that every single family could implement by having a 'water bucket', leaving it outside, all the time in a good catching place. Then, when it rains, it is automatically filled and brought into the home for at least small chores. There could be special rain buckets, all the same colour and size, one per family, as a start-up project! I vote for blue buckets, distributed by governments and then, voila, more water all around.

From V Moelagi Jackson, Samoa

From Faasao Savaii Society a conservation society working on the outer island of Savaii. With the cost of electricity and water rates going up in Samoa we are teaching villages and families to make sure to harvest rain water so that they do not have to pay unaffordable water rates when there is water around them We also help villages to write up proposals to the European Union to supply us with water tanks so that we could harvest rainwater. So I think to meet the Millennium Development Goals 2015 we should identify every mean to save and manage resources. In our SWA recent Plan review I strongly pushed the plan to include harvesting of rainwater. The trouble with many present plans is the balancing or books cash wise instead of survival wise.

I forgot to add that the supply of water tanks in Samoa is by the European Union.

From Elizabeth Khaka, Kenya

I read with interest the articles on the use of rainwater harvesting in small islands. All the articles agree that rainwater can contribute to reducing the water shortage, The question we should be asking ourselves is "Why is rainwater harvesting not used widely?' One of the major reasons is that it is not mainstreamed into water policies and strategy hence limited resources are allocated for its use. The technology does not receive adequate support, for instance many water institutions have departments dedicated to surface and groundwater and none for rainwater. Until rainwater is given the same profile as surface and groundwater, the technology will be not be given priority. It is important that policies include rainwater harvesting so that it is considered an option in water supplies as is the case for surface and groundwater.

To promote rainwater harvesting the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has facilitated the formation of a sustainable development partnership, The Rainwater Partnership in October 2005. It has over 59 members from all over the world. Membership is free to interested parties and forms can be accessed at www.rainwaterpartnership.org. The Partnership provides a platform for exchange of information between members, advocates for mainstreaming rainwater harvesting at international and national fora, and will be conducting its first e workshop.

From Leba Mataitini, Fulaga, Fiji

Human beings need air (oxygen) to breathe, water to drink and food to eat to survive. With hold these from them, then they start to feel various stages of discomfort and inconvenience.

It is only when the supply of these necessities is cut-off then one can really appreciate the value of conserving them.

I come from a very small island, Fulaga, on the bottom of the map of the Fiji Islands. There are no rivers and the only source of drinking water is the rain collected in water tanks. This also provides water for cooking, washing, bathing in buckets. I grew up with water being a very precious commodity that has to be conserved.

I left the island and come into Suva where there are running taps for all uses including hose pipes to water the garden and wash the car, scrub the driveway and house walls, luxury! With so much movement into and population growth in urban and peri-urban areas in Suva and other towns in Fiji, water has indeed become a very precious commodity that needs to be conserved.

Children must be taught from home, school and beyond that water is precious and musty be used wisely.

All homes should be assisted to own a water tank as a very basic necessity to store drinking water from free rain from heaven.

My very own view on this very important topic.

From Leba Mataitini, Fiji

Fiji has a relatively high yearly rainfall and an easy way forward to ensure that the 900,000 people that live in Fiji have access to this basic need is through providing 3x10,000-litre water tank for each family in Fiji through an International Waters programme. This will ensure the high rainfall is captured for basic needs of drinking, cooking, washing and bathing. It is not the amount of water available that is the main problem but the management of the available captured water. In comparison to areas like South Australia with very low annual rainfall, Fiji should not have any water problems.

The other issue is that the vast seawater areas surrounding the islands can be converted to freshwater through desalination processes. However, I have been made aware that this process is presently very expensive and the by-products of brine can be a disposal problem. More research and development work in this area may bring the cost of the process down in time.

From Janot-Reine Mendler, USA

For the last 35 years my family have been summer residents of a small granite island in the Gulf of Maine, where we have had to contend with more people & rising water demand, limited and shrinking aquifer reserves, increased water prices and higher regulatory standards for wastewater. An incorporated association of homeowners manages water supply and sanitation on a semi-collective basis for most of the 30 or so cottages. When I was a child, the high cost of limited pumped water from island wells meant that with 5 children, our family got used to using a coin-operated shower and laundry facility on the mainland, and our toilets flushed with salt water - straight into the sea. With the enactment of increasingly stringent coastal water quality legislation, a summer resident inventor devised a two-tank oxygenation system that was approved by the state of Maine for experimental use and adopted by all the houses on the island, but proved to be insufficient to meet current effluent standards. The island homeowners' association undertook studies to evaluate the fiscal and environmental viability of alternative solutions. A collective contract was negotiated with SeptiTech (www.septitech.com) to install a new residential technology using a biological recirculating trickle filter system to treat wastewater. An electronic controller is programmed to optimize removal of pollutants to exceed US NSF Class 1 (EPA secondary treatment standards); this system is now approved in 7 US states. However, this new technology posed one problem: it is not effective for saltwater effluent. Converting all the island toilets from seawater to freshwater would overtax the already vulnerable recharge of island wells....the association of homeowners decided to install a reverse osmosis system to supplement water pumped from the aquifer and ensure adequate freshwater to meet the increase in household use. Investment costs of treatment systems were carried by individual homeowners, and the additional cost of reverse osmosis installation and maintenance distributed across all island users, in part with a rise in the price of piped water. For a number of families like ours - now enlarged with my generation's children - the combination of increased freshwater demand at higher cost has triggered exploration of yet another means to meet water demand affordably. A local plumber designed and installed a rainwater collection system, which combined with a simple Brita tap-filter for potable water, is now providing an ample and sustainable source of fresh water. Water supply is secured for all residents for the foreseeable future - at a price, so if it doesn't rain, we can pay for piped water.

From Anne Outwater

Hello, Thank you for this article. I've been to Fiji only once, but it seemed like a prime place for rain water collection systems. I would wonder why people are waiting for the water truck. I would be very surprised if they couldn't build village level systems with rain captured off their roofs that could easily augment what the government feels like providing.

From D. R. Perni, India

Thanks, happy to know about different views expressed on issues related to water. Ours is the largest democracy in the world with extreme disparities in the distribution of rainfall. The western part of India experiences minimal rainfall, whereas the north-eastern region records maximum rainfall. To our astonishment both regions suffer from drinking water shortages during the summer season with varying severities.

Rain water harvesting practice in this large country bounded by Bay of Bengal on the east, Arabian Sea on the west and Indian Ocean in the south, is an age old practice to fill the mouths of people going back decades. With the exploding population resulting in growing demand for water, instead of increased rain water harvesting practices it is almost becoming a rare practice now.

If proper management is adapted on a holistic way with the four waters concept it will mitigate the grievances in terms of drinking and irrigation needs as well. I concur with the views expressed by water scientists and will be ready to join hands with like-minded people in the organization of international conferences on comprehensive water resources monitoring and management. I am indeed happy to share my views in detail if anybody is interested.

From Alex Perrine, Rodrigues

One of our main problems in small Island states is the shortage of natural resources and one the most needed resources is water. Water is getting rarer and rarer thus causing an increase in poverty while production is reducing.

In the island of Rodrigues, I as social worker have participated in a rain water harvesting project which enables each household to have a water tank and other accessories to collect water. This project was being implemented through a community participation approach. So as to be able to reduce water problems in small island states, there should be full participation of the community in identifying the problem and the solutions.

Even though rain is very rare in our zone, maximum use of reliable methods should be used to reduce the problem. Rain water harvesting from the roof of each household family is one of the reliable methods.

From K.D. Pillay, Seychelles

We acknowledge with thanks receipt of your email dated 5 April 2005 concerning the above, the contents of which have been noted.

Our view about water supply in the small islands states is that the small islands states must be introduced to rain water harvest. We are facing water cuts now and then even if the government has established desalination equipment. The rain water harvest programme must be subsidised by the United Nations to the small island states because of the economic crisis the small island states are unable to invest in the programme. We fully agree that we adopted water conservation measures before to face water scarcity.

We request you also to organise a conference to discuss the problems and solutions like water scarcity. To organise a conference in Seychelles we are ready to help in one way or another.

Your feedback will be highly appreciated.

From R. Rethinam, Indonesia

I am happy to see the mail which elaborates the water problem in Fiji and ways and means to collect and store water.

Water is an important issue, which is causing great concern, not only in small Islands but in all parts of the world, not only in cities but also in villages, not only for agriculture but also for drinking and daily use.

There is great urgency to conserve the water whenever and wherever possible. Water harvesting devices/techniques have to be adopted to store the available rainwater. This harvested water can be stored in small cement tanks or tubes or drums. Whether it is terraced house or tiled house or thatched house rainwater can be harvested by suitably placing some polythene sheets and pipes.

In sloppy lands with hillocks also water harvesting can be done using the various methods available. Water harvesting tanks can be made at definite intervals to interrupt the running water and allowing percolation to recharge ground water. Normally the rainwater is mostly wasted and flows into the seas through rivers. Systematic efforts should be made to harvest every drop of water.

From Sharon, Mauritius

Dear friends,

I got your news on my mail and it's been very sad to hear that in Fiji there is the water shortage and people are getting used to it.

Well, my suggestion to it is that I can advise the Fiji people to economize water by putting a water tank on their house. So that whenever there is a water cut, they can use the water in the tank. And in the same way, they don't have to phone the Public Works Department as it's time consuming.

This is my idea, and I hope you agree. Because here in Mauritius, on every person's house there is a water tank to preserve water whenever there is a water cut in our region here.

Thank you.

From Elizabeth Taylor, San Andres Island, Colombia

San Andres Island is part of UNESCO's Seaflower Biosphere Reserve in the Caribbean. Despite an annual average rainfall of 1800 mm the San Andres islanders suffer from severe water shortages. Traditionally rainwater was the main source of potable water, but over the years "modernization" has meant that traditional water supply methods were pushed to one side in favour of groundwater. The regional environmental management agency, CORALINA, monitors groundwater quality and levels of use and has found that 70% of groundwater is polluted. Saline intrusion from over-extraction and rising sea-levels pose a serious threat that needs further study.

The level of rainwater collection on the island is well below its potential. CORALINA is starting a pilot project with village households to improve rain water harvesting and maximize benefits from rainwater. Clusters of homes will share rainwater collection &distribution systems. It is hoped that low-cost, appropriate technology rain water harvesting can be used across San Andres to provide more and cleaner water. This pilot project is a participatory programme that integrates traditional knowledge with new technology to achieve sustainable development through local action. For more information contact Elizabeth Taylor, CORALINA executive director, at coralsai@telecom.com.co

From L. Tuitubou, Fiji

The article you quote re-affirms yet again the hardships some of our communities here in Fiji are facing in relation to water alone, not to mention the hardship they face daily in other areas of their lives.

I am thankful that most of the people mentioned in the article have used their own initiative to find ways to collect and keep enough water for them and their families instead of waiting around for assistance from the Fiji Government. They are to be commended for that, and also for practising water conservation themselves, and for the way they are teaching their children to do the same.

Anyway, I would like to bring to your notice the hardship that village people in the outer islands in Fiji have been facing with regards to water shortage, for years and years, and how they have been practicing basic water conservation all these years. Outer small island people do not have water cuts, because they do not have piped water supply.

One example of an outer island, is my village, which is in the Lau Group. Ever since I can remember, I have never at any one time seen or known my village to have lots of water. We mostly bathe in the sea, and wash our clothes in semi-salty water, because we have to keep our rain water for drinking. We do not have the luxury of knowing that the Government Public Works Department trucks (even late sometimes) will bring us more water.

We have a large village water tank from which we get our twice-weekly supply of water, but these are always rationed, each household is only allowed a certain number of buckets of water, depending on the water level in the tank.

When it doesn't rain for months, the water level in the village tank gets really low. Even though some houses have their own small tanks to supplement their supply of water, there's always the danger of the village running out of water altogether. When that happens, our men would walk long distances in the forests to get water from the few ponds that exist in the island. The water they collect, though not very clean nor hygienic, is shared among the households, for drinking purpose only. Our only other source of drink is green coconut juice and ripe pawpaw.

I guess what I am trying to say here, is that we from the outer islands in Fiji would be really grateful if your organization could assist us by identifying, introducing and financing better water conservation systems into our villages.

Thank you.

From Tuvmet, Tuvalu

My heart goes out to the people facing water cuts frequently. But, if you live where we live, water supply becomes more of a problem to you than water cuts. In here we depend only on rain water. So each family builds their own water tank, even large ones and whenever it rains, water is collected into them for all purposes. If any of the residents had built their own tanks and collected water from their roofs whenever it rains, frequent water cuts would never be a problem. Here, when there is no rain for at least a week, you could call it a drought. So let's say that we all have problems. Find solutions to your problems and solve them. Build a water tank. It is not that expensive!


Underground water

From Linus Digim'rina, Papua New Guinea

Thanks for your inspiring contributions. I've been harbouring and somewhat timidly knocking on the doors of relevant government departments, line agencies and donors for support for a proposed water supply project for some 10 villages (c. 10,000 people) in my home island, Trobriands, Papua New Guinea. It is a small coral atoll like your own.

Over the years, steel water pumps have been introduced, lasted for about 5 years and then break down, subsequently forcing the women/girls back to the traditional way of water carting from the wells. Sometimes, the longest distance would be about 1km. There are others however, that could access albeit, brackish water from the knee-high water wells around their villages. Due to the above problems, I have been putting together a proposal/concept paper in making good clean water more accessible and at a sustainable level for my people. Because the island is big enough to have a reliable water table that is fresh enough and big enough for some 30-100,000 people? (current resident figure is 28,000), fresh water can be accessed from almost anywhere on the island. This has been confirmed by the technical experts in setting up the steel water pumps drilled into the ground. In fact new hamlets are now into manually digging water wells up 5-15m deep (50-100cm in diameter) for their own use. Other villagers also flock in to help themselves at the kindness of the owners. My proposal basically calls for donor support (to finance expertise and initial capital cost), to dig up bore holes with the villages (3-5 per 1000 persons), attach ropes to pulleys to bring water to the surface, build roofing over the mouth of the bore hole for further protection, put up a 1.5m concrete wall along the rim of the well (prevent pigs, dogs and children), align the inner walls of the well with concrete/bamboo planks, and ensure that the depth of the water well is over 3m. This will ensure that the fetching bucket creates minimum disturbance on the silt sitting at the floor of the water well, thereby ensuring clean water extraction.

This to me is a more sustainable venture compared to steel water pumps for islanders that have such a poor cash economy which is unable to sustain the running costs of machines, etc. A bore water well will last through generations, just as is known in other parts of the world - there are enough examples shown in the bible. Very roughly, this is how my proposal conceptualises the water supply project for a small coral atoll island like mine.

Could I please have some comments on the idea? I have yet to fully articulate it to the potential donors although, my village elders and respective group leaders are pretty much aware of my idea. An Australian firm is pretty keen, so far, in testing out my idea. Any help?

From Ben Tanaki, Niue

Hi! I am sorry but at the same time inspired to read of such experiences and feel for the community's concern.

People say that we in Niue are one of the most fortunate people to have regular supply of water. Every house hold has its own water tap at its house. No one walks or go anywhere beyond its house premises for water. The service is all funded by the way.

I guess we can enjoy what water services we have now because of the 'one unit island' like the size of Ovalau I think, and the declined population.

We don't have that much water cuts unless it's a natural disaster like the time of the Heta Cyclone; and a problem of the electric water pumps which pump the water from the underground. It is strain on Government financial resources and only time can tell Government's ability to sustain our water services. I think our Government will be forced in the very near future to charge for water....

Our water supply is pumped from underground. Each of the13 villages has a water reservoir (tank) from which water is then piped to every household.

But even if we do have water cuts, still lots of houses have those water catchment tanks feeding off roof tops.

But our water system is considered a high risk too. As long as the underground water is not contaminated, then we are alright. Otherwise if it becomes contaminated, then the whole island is in trouble. The cost of alternatives means for us would be beyond our financial ability, even beyond donor tolerance. This is the kind of scenario that frightens us a lot. And this has caused us to be more active and watch out and work responsibly to ensure and take serious precautions with the toxic materials we have and use. This is inevitably hard to achieve given the pressure of economic development in this small island state of ours. But I am reasonably comfortable to see and know our Government's Organic Farming concept that is in place...'by 2010, Niue will be a Toxicant Free Island', which means there will be no more toxic fertilizers or toxic weed killers by 2010, only composted organic materials. But that is the idea which works only if our people are serious and true about it. It's true that we tend to respond to conservation strategies only when we actually have a scarcity problem persistently in our face.

Anyway, I am inspired by the lessons of the article and I don't think I will complain that much next time we have water cuts here in Niue. I think, I will be proactive about it.

Thank you for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts as an individual from a small island of Niue. I believe the nature of social, cultural, economical and political problems and opportunities in our individual small island states are the same except different magnitudes.

Fakaaue lahi mahaki!


To get involved, contact :


Coastal Regions and Small Islands Platform
UNESCO, Paris, France
fax: +33 1 45 68 58 08

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