The vandalised transformer in August, 2012, before the new parts arrived.

Tarawa water reserve back online

Press release, Tarawa, January 3, 2012

South Tarawa’s ground water supply has increased by approximately 20 per cent thanks to a joint operation between the Public Utilities Board (PUB) and the Kiribati Adaptation Program – Phase III (KAPIII).

The Buota Water Reserve was successfully re-opened recently after more than one year of inactivity due to a loss of power and vandalism to the site.

PUB Chief Executive Officer Kevin Rouatu said the connection was first severed when the Tanaea Bridge collapsed in June 2008.

“In September 2009, the United States Navy installed a new bridge across the Buota-Tanaea channel and the Kiribati Adaptation Program – Phase II re-laid new pipes for the water connection in 2010,” Mr Rouatu said.

During the time the water reserve was offline, Mr Rouatu said much of the pumping infrastructure was vandalised making it necessary to replace and rehabilitate all of the pumping chambers as well as relaying the pipes.

“The vandalism stopped the power to the site, which meant the six water pumps at the reserve could not be used to extract water,” he said.

“To restore the power, KAPIII funded a transformer and T-switch, which arrived by ship in late July.

“Now four of the six pumps are in working order and the Bouta site can supplement the water we get from the reserve at Bonriki.”

The water reserves at Bonriki and Buota are the only water reserves providing groundwater to South Tarawa, KAPIII Project Manager Kautuna Kaitara said.

“The Buota Water Reserve has the capacity to provide about 300 cubic metres of water per day, the equivalent to 1500 200l ‘te turam’,” Mr Kaitara said.

South Tarawa’s other water reserve at Bonriki provides 1600 cubic metres per day.

“As Buota is the second main source of ground water for the people of South Tarawa we want to work well with the people of Buota to ensure its’ ongoing success.

“Bonriki has been over-pumped and now we can reduce the extraction rate to prevent damage to the water lenses and equipment.

“If we lose the water reserves at Bonriki and Buota, we lose the only reasonably safe drinking water for the people of Betio and South Tarawa.

“So protection of these water reserves is critical for the liveability of Betio and South Tarawa and the health of all that live here.

“This includes minimising pollution, animals, agriculture and sand mining in the area to ensure the water remains healthy enough for human consumption.”

Australian High Commission First Secretary Lydia Bezeruk said Australia was proud to be co-financing KAPIII and supporting the repair of the Buota Water Reserve.

“It’s important that we understand that water is a precious commodity, in South Tarawa in particular,” Ms Bezeruk said.

“Most of the water reserves have been polluted and are beyond repair, which is why maintaining the effective functioning of reserves such as Buota and Bonriki is critical.”

Facts about KAPIII

The Kiribati Adaptation Program- Phase III (KAPIII) is a five-year project under the Office of the President and funded via the World Bank GEF LDCF Trust Fund with co financing from the governments of Australia and Japan, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery partnership, as well as in-kind from the Government of Kiribati.

The objective of KAPIII is to improve the resilience of Kiribati to the impacts of climate change on freshwater supply and coastal infrastructure.

Freshwater supply projects from 2012 to 2016 include working closely with the MPWU and PUB to manage assets and provide training to staff, the installation of four new rainwater harvesting works and two infiltration gallery works in North and South Tarawa, the detection and repair of leaks in the groundwater pipe system from Buota to Betio and the rehabilitation of the Buota Water Reserve.