Water Shortage in the South Pacific

Growing Blue

Economic losses caused by water disasters and mismanagement have been underestimated by at least 50 percent.

In the South Asian and Pacific Islands, basic service infrastructure struggles to meet the needs of the influx of people that have come in search of economic opportunities and better access to public services. Resource experts say many of these countries face a potential water crisis as a result.

Water Authorities in these countries struggle to meet the water demands of the rapidly expanding population, due to pipe restrictions and the limited and aged pipe networks. The current water shortages in many places are in fact the result of mandatory rationing. However, those without piped water have no supply to accordingly manage. In the Solomon Islands in the settlements surrounding the urban area of Honiara, a priest has explained that “there are about three houses that have proper sanitation…the rest use the nearby beach.” One outcome is regular cases of dysentery, diarrhea and cholera. UNEP estimates that more than 10 percent of all fatalities of children throughout the South-Pacific is caused by diarrhea related diseases.

Another two issues that are beginning to be addressed now are first, that there are those countries with industries that are driving the economic growth in the region but in doing so require reliable supplies of fresh water for some part of their production cycle. Second, rising seas are mixing the region’s freshwater reserves with saltwater, affecting the potability of the water in periods of less rainfall.

One of the main challenges facing water resource management in these nations is limited technical, resource and governance capacity to address complex infrastructure challenges and implement development strategies.