Drought Warning Issued As Rarotonga Water Supplies Diminish

Public urged to curb water use

By Chris Taylor 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Oct. 6, 2017) – Rapidly dwindling water supplies on Rarotonga have prompted Level Three drought warning.

The warning was issued yesterday afternoon by Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) director Jaime Short.

Level 1 is normal, while Level 5 is regarded as a severe emergency.

Infrastructure Cook Islands is urging Rarotonga residents to curb water use, but the situation has already become critical on northern parts of the island.

Water is now being carted in to fill the Nikao community water tanks because there isn’t enough pressure in the mains to fill the bottom tanks which then pump water up to the hilltop tanks.

“The normal pressure for the area is usually about 20 metres. It has dropped to 8m - below 50 per cent. We are now announcing the Level 3 situation as we are now extracting water from the other areas to subsidise the north side,” says WATSAN water division manager, Wilson Rani.

The Water Division is asking all island residents to start using water-saving measures such as taking shorter showers.

“Flush only ‘number twos’, don’t wash cars or windows, don’t water gardens and avoid any public high water usage activities, such as car wash fundraisers, says Short. 

Agricultural water usage should be restricted to 6am to 10am and 6pm to 10pm. 

“Working with the drought response plan, we all need to cut our daily water usage by 50 per cent and do not waste water,” says Short. “We find so much water wastage from faulty plumbing all over the island, at people’s houses, pig pens and on vacant lands that have a water connection. 

“It is a social responsibility for people to get their leaky plumbing repaired.”

Drought Management Plan, Level 3 details have been posted online at: http://ici.gov.ck/icis-drought-management-plan-for-rarotonga-water. Everyone should download this document and cooperate with all the measures outlined, says Short.

The triggers for Level 3 can include continuous below average rainfall extending from the previous month, stream flow below 50 per cent capacity, reticulation pressure readings below 50 per cent capacity, residential/community water storage below 50 per cent of capacity, tourist supply storage below 50 per cent of capacity and a low rainfall forecast for the next month. 

Looking at the future situation, Cook Islands Met Service director Arona Ngari says the forecast for August to October was expected to bring the country a decent amount of rain.

“But unfortunately it hasn’t been so. The current international forecast for the Southern Group expects October to have normal rain. However, it will more realistically be just below normal and stay this way for the next three months.”

ICI will provide regular updates on the situation.

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