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Expert says global factors are to blame

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, July 28, 2011) – A water management expert says global factors are to blame for water shortages in Pacific islands and the small nations need international support.

Water shortages in many communities across the Pacific force people to use contaminated or salty groundwater for cooking and drinking.

In coming years, it is expected that climate change will put even more stress on water supplies.

At a conference wrapping up in Cook Islands on Friday, delegates from 14 Pacific nations met to find solutions to the problem.

Dr Alfred Duda is a senior advisor on international waters to The Global Environment Facility.

Speaking to Pacific Beat from the conference in Raratonga, he said the Pacific countries that attended the forum were discovering they were often not responsible for their own water problems.

"Much of it relates to the global economy, globalisation and things like the planet warming and sea level rise," he said.

"So, for example, if Australians and New Zealanders come to the islands, they really take the water in the hotels and the villages don't have water.

"In addition, the sewerage then from those hotels can leak to the water and contaminate the people and their food and swimmers. So it's really complex. It's a global issue and not just the islanders' fault."

Dr Duda said hotel charges for tourists should reflect the cost of proper water conservation measures and sewerage treatment measures.

"People will [still] stay in the hotels if it's an extra dollar or two a day to put in proper water conservation measures and proper sewerage treatment," he said.

"The tourists will really not notice that, but it will really help with their environment and they'll enjoy their stay more."

While wealthy cities such as Melbourne could afford to desalinate water, he said, Pacific islands could not.

"So it's a matter of protecting what little groundwater they have with proper practices and this costs money. If the rich countries of the world are really responsible for global warming, we all need to help these island states."

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