SPC and water authority staff measuring water levels in a monitoring bore.
Residents of Yap State, the westernmost state of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), are experiencing their fourth month of extreme drought, and face critical challenges in maintaining a safe water supply for their communities. The Pacific Community (SPC) is now working with public water authorities in the state to make more efficient use of existing infrastructure and help identify new water sources.
The work is being conducted as part of the EUR 4.5 million European Union – North Pacific – Readiness for El Niño (RENI) project, which is focused on securing food and water resources for vulnerable communities ahead of droughts.
“The European Union is committed to helping the Small Island Developing States of the Pacific address the ever-increasing risks posed by climate change and natural disasters. Understanding the nature and underlying cause of these complex phenomena is an important precursor to implementing solutions. This is fully in line with the European Green Deal – the EU top priority for the years to come,” said Ambassador of the European Union for the Pacific, HE Sujiro Seam.
Starting in May 2019, a technical team from SPC visited Yap proper to assess groundwater resources and meet with the managers of the four water authorities and the utility company.
During a month-long follow-up visit in September 2019, the team undertook an assessment of the largest underground water reserve, the Gagil-Tomil Aquifer, and carried out pumping tests to determine the impact of current extraction rates on the aquifer and between wellfields.
“Dry conditions began to impact Yap in October 2019, and April 2020 marked Yap’s fourth consecutive month of extreme drought with precipitation totals below 4 inches of rain. This drought now ranks as the tenth most severe on record,” said the Staff Meteorologist of the Yap Weather Service Office, Mr. Javez Mooteb.
Yap residents are being encouraged to use water conservation measures as the water authorities are facing challenges maintaining the water supply.
Since September 2019, an SPC technical team has been supporting Yap government’s groundwater monitoring in the Gagil -Tomil area. During a virtual meeting with Yap Water Authorities on 13th May 2020, SPC shared their main findings.
SPC’S Water Resources Monitoring & Assessment Coordinator, Peter Sinclair, highlighted the need for implementing long term drought planning saying, “The aquifer is very capable of meeting water demand during normal rainfall, but during extended dry conditions, such as the present drought, continuous extraction is causing significant stress to the aquifer. Monitoring the aquifer will assist local water authorities in balancing both water demand needs and aquifer limitations”.
Ms Christina Fillmed, Executive Director of Yap State Environmental Protection Agency, stressed the importance of the project for the people of Yap, “As we continue to face the loss of crops, the drying up of vegetation and ongoing water shortages, we are very grateful for the scientific advice and analysis provided by SPC through the RENI project, which is helping us cope with this present drought and plan for future droughts”.
Drought periods have been occurring more regularly and lasting longer in recent years, putting increasing stress on Yap communities. However, careful monitoring and scientific research on local water systems can greatly reduce the impact of these droughts.
SPC’s Director-General, Stuart Minchin, highlighted the value of this work in helping to build understanding of Pacific water systems and supporting the people of Yap maintain access to safe water, “The Pacific Community is a scientific and technical organization and all our work is focused on improving lives and supporting resilient, sustainable communities across our region. This project is a great example of that principle in action.”
The European Union (EU) – North Pacific – Readiness for El Niño (RENI) project is about communities working to secure food and water resources ahead of drought. The three-year (2017 – 2020) project is funded with € 4.5 million from the EU and implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC) in collaboration with the governments and peoples of the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau.
More information about the project is available online: http://ccprojects.gsd.spc.int/eu-north-pacific-reni/