Niue Enabled To Manufacture Water Tanks Locally

Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

News Release

Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Progamme Alofi, Niue

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The future is looking more secure for Niue with the opening of a facility that will allow the nation to produce its own water tanks. The Premier of Niue, the Honourable Toke Talagi, cut the ribbon on 12 December, witnessed by the island’s dignitaries, politicians, project partners and community representatives. A key output of the Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change (PACC) project in Niue, in partnership with the Global Climate Change Alliance: Pacific Small Island States project, the new moulding workshop means that each household on the island will soon have its own water tank.

Niue is a single island of raised limestone, of area approximately 260 km2, and has no surface water. The population of about 1,600 has been mainly relying on groundwater pumped from the underground freshwater lens, which lies 30–60 metres below the surface, for its freshwater. However there are problems associated with this source.

"We need imported fuel to pump the groundwater, which is obviously expensive," explains Clinton Chapman, Technical Advisor to the PACC project in Niue. "We are also vulnerable because we only have one power station, so when that is out of action we can’t pump water."

Groundwater contamination is also a risk, especially after heavy rain or a cyclone.

The PACC project, which began in 2009, looked at ways to improve resilience of this isolated island in the face of climate change. Working with the Government of Niue, the Niue Department of Environment, the Public Works Department and the island’s communities, the project helped to develop an Adaptation Plan for the country. As rainfall becomes more uncertain, it was recognised that providing an alternative water source would reduce vulnerability of households. There would also be a climate change mitigation bonus through reducing the burning of fossil fuels, as well as an economic benefit for the country.

Rainfall harvesting was common in the past in Niue, and this was agreed to be the preferred alternative water source. The next stage was to identify the best and most cost-effective way to supply water tanks to households. "We carried out considerable research, consultation and analysis," says Niue PACC Project Coordinator, Haden Talagi. "This led us to the decision to build our own facility on Niue and start moulding our own tanks."

"We received training from the PACC regional team in cost–benefit analysis, which turned out to be a very useful tool to help us select from the various options. In particular, this helped us identify the optimum tank size – 5,000 litres."

The new moulding facility is capable of producing up to eight 5,000 litre tanks each day. The tanks are made of a robust plastic called high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is imported in powder form before it is processed and moulded into tanks. HDPE tanks have some significant advantages over other types of tank, for example they are lightweight, there are no joints that can split, and the plastic material complies with New Zealand and Australian safety standards, that is, it does not react with or contaminate the water in any way.

New Zealand company, Galloway International Limited, is working with local partner, Shop Exports & Freight Limited, to manufacture the rainwater tanks.

"The project and partners are providing one water tank for each household on Niue," says Haden. "On our current schedule, we should have produced all of these tanks by the end of April 2014."

Householders will be responsible for maintenance of their tanks, and will be required to cover the costs of guttering and fascia boards needed for the system to work. The project team has been working within communities to raise awareness of the value of the tanks, and will be carrying out training on system maintenance to ensure the tanks are kept in good order. Properly maintained, the tanks will last for many decades.

Clinton Chapman explains the new facility to guests at the opening

There has already been a lot of local interest in the initiative. "About a hundred households have asked for an extra tank, which they will pay for," says Haden. "We’ve also had interest from the tourism and agriculture sectors."

There is another bonus too. "With this facility we can also produce other moulded plastic products, such as septic tanks and waste bins."

Niue is one of 14 countries that are participating in the PACC Programme, which is the largest climate change adaptation initiative in the region. Projects under the Programme focus on one of three key climate-sensitive sectors – water resources, food security, or coastal zone management. The Programme is funded by the Global Environment Facility and the Australian Government with support from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Climate Change Capacity Development (C3D+). The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) is the implementing partner, and the United Nations Development Programme acts as implementing agency.

The Global Climate Change Alliance: Pacific Small Island States project is supported by the European Union and implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

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