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By Sophie Hilderbrand

SUVA, Fiji Islands (December 27, 2001 – Fiji Times)---More than 50 percent of the water provided through Suva's supply system gets lost before it reaches consumers’ taps. This startling revelation is contained in the Suva-Nausori Water and Sewerage Master plan, prepared for the Government by the Asian Development Bank.

The comprehensive document is a 20-year plan designed to meet the needs of Suva's growing population. The paper said the main sources of unaccounted-for-water (UFW) were leaking pipes and meter errors.

"UFW is a critical issue that could influence the timing of future water supply augmentation works,'' it said. The paper added that although positive gains had been made in some areas of leak detection, "the effort must be sustained if real long-term benefits are to be realized.''

It is anticipated that Suva's population will increase from around 248,000 last year to 371,000 in 2019.

"This represents an average annual growth rate of 2.1 percent, although higher growth rates (2.9 percent) are expected during the early parts of the 20-year planning period,'' it said.

"The system has little reserve capacity with regard to sources, treatment or distribution. While the WSS is undertaking a Leak Detection Program, unaccounted for water (UFW) remains at levels of about 50 percent.

"This includes leakage, metering errors, illegal connections and operational use.''

However, in addition to water shortages, additional problems are creeping in due to untreated sewerage.

Less than 40 percent of Suva's urban population was connected to the sewerage reticulation system, the paper said. "The remainder is served by septic tanks and pit latrines, which perform poorly in Suva's low permeability soils and substrata.

"Industrial discharges to drains, creeks and bays also occur. These discharges, together with overflows from the WSS's sewerage systems, are causing environmental damage and pose a potential risk to public health.''

The paper, prepared in 1999, was designed to give the Government a 20-year guide to coping with water demand.

It said water demand and sewerage loadings should be closely monitored in the future and compared with the master plan projection with regard to time and location of demand.

"The master plans are rigid schedules for implementation, but are intended as guides for future development,'' the paper said. "The details of the projects and the timing for various works items are subject to discussion with government and WSS, and may change to suit priorities, budgetary constraints and circumstances.''

In the 2002 Budget, F$ 44.5 million (US$ 19,201,750) was allocated to upgrade existing water supply facilities around the country, 50 percent more than this year's allocation.

The greater Suva area includes Suva City, Lami and Nausori towns and the adjoining suburban areas.

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

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