ACUTE NORTHERN MARIANAS WATER SHORTAGE LIKELY

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By Jojo Dass

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (November 2, 1998 - Marianas Variety)---Prepare your rain catchments, fix your leaks and conserve water.

Saipan is headed for an acute shortage as there has been very minimal rainfall in the past months, according to the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation (CUC).

Citing figures culled from the U.S. Geological Service (USGS), CUC spokesperson Pamela Mathis said rainfall was down by 90 percent in June; 60 percent in July; 50 percent in August; and 60 percent in September.

"These are some scary figures because it (shows that the amount of rainfall) is not getting better," said Mathis. "We are afraid," she added, "we are going to see an acute shortage next year."

Mathis said Saipan has been having "a lot of cloudy skies but not a lot of rain." She explained that with the rainy season almost over, the island is entering a new dry season with water wells unreplenished with fresh rain.

"We are going into January, which basically starts a drier season, and it will be okay if we have some water underground but now we are going to go into a dry season and we don't have any water underground," Mathis said.

She added that the islands' water supply would still not be enough even if there had been storms in the latter part of the year.

"(Storm) water does not help a lot because that water comes down so fast it runs off to the sea. So even if we are saved by some storms that come through, we (still) are not going to be saved (at all). This situation is very difficult," Mathis said.

Mathis predicted a big outcry for a water desalination facility may come in next year's first few months. However, such appears headed to be shelved as it costs an astronomical amount of money, of which government does not have enough.

"The only choice," Mathis proposed, "is to catch the rain water, fix your leaks, and pay attention to conservation."

USGS's data is derived from nine monitoring stations across the island.

For additional reports from the Marianas Variety, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Marianas Variety.

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