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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Dec. 19) - The rate of expansion by bottled water companies in Fiji is a cause for real concern, says the Mineral Resources Department.

Department principal hydrologist and acting manager geological services Malakai Finau said this has led to the development of a water resources policy and the subsequent putting in place measures for proper management of groundwater resources.

"There may be enough water now but the rate of expansion by some of these bottled water companies is a cause for real concern," he said.

"Recent cases include the expansions by Natural Waters Viti Ltd and Island Chill," said Mr. Finau.

He said the availability of water for extraction in future would depend on a number of factors including water use, management policies and practices, land use, population growth and demand on the water resources, economy, politics, and climate change.

"We are concerned at the expansion and increasing usage of water resources commercially when there are people out there who do not have a decent water supply," Finau said.

"Withdrawing safe or sustainable amounts of groundwater for whatever use should not be a problem. Groundwater aquifers have been in use around the world for water supply since time immemorial.

"It is the over-extraction of water resources that will have harmful effects not only on the environment but firstly on the bottled water company itself," Finau said.

Island Chill general manager Jay Dayal said all bottling companies should comply with a sustainable extraction rate to ensure groundwater was not overdrawn.

"It is essential that every bottler must have a protected zone and not allowing more than one plant in a given area to protect the source quality and quantity," Mr. Dayal said.

"Our borehole extraction capacity is one million liters per day per borehole," he said.

"Right now we are doing around 100,000 liters per day, which is 10 percent of the recommended rate of one of the four boreholes," he said.

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