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Aitutaki water runs low

Friday 30 December 2022 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Local, National, Outer Islands

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Aitutaki water runs low

Aitutaki is again experiencing a dry spell as the island grapples with ongoing water rationing issues.

Office of the Prime Minister spokesperson Jaewynn McKay confirmed the island is struggling after Cook Islands News was contacted by a concerned visitor who has been on the island for more than two weeks.

While McKay provided a response, Aitutaki executive officer Tuaine George and Mayor Tekura Bishop did not return calls or reply to emails.

The visitor, Rarotonga resident Rod Henderson, said there had been “little bursts” of water in five to 10-minute spells, about five times a day.

While there were water supplies depending on where people were located on the island, he said there was a water shortage right across Aitutaki.

“The locals seem to be used to it; we have buckets of water which are used in place of showers, and for flushing.”

Henderson said he had been travelling to the island for 20 years and had never seen the situation so dire.

Henderson’s concerns were echoed by Tamanu Beach Resort general manager Nick Henry, himself a long-time resident of the island, who said water shortages had been ongoing for a long time.

“It will be exacerbated by the fact we have a lot of locals returning.”

Henry said there is a mains water system, but often it is managed “village by village”.

There had been ongoing issues with water pump maintenance, he said.  

“We do get enough rain water; we don’t have enough storage.”

Henry said he understood the island council had made a submission to Parliament in 2017, addressing some of the ongoing water supply concerns.

“For me the water situation is a result of poor leadership on the island.

“Aitutaki is meant to be the jewel in the crown; it needs polishing.”  

McKay said the dry spell Aitutaki has been experiencing, is not an uncommon occurrence.

“Without rain, immense pressure is put on the underground water galleries, and Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI) in conjunction with the local people on the ground who know their situation best, are working to provide an equitable as possible solution to the problem.

“What this means is certain areas of the community will have their water supply turned off to allow other areas to be supplied – a form of water rationing.

“The people of Aitutaki have been sharing water in an equitable way, a way developed by them for decades.

“The Aitutaki Island Government is encouraging everyone to be mindful of their water usage, and to conserve as much water as they can.”