Parched Penrhyn receives water relief

Thursday 14 January 2021 | Written by Emmanuel Samoglou | Published in National, Outer Islands

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Parched Penrhyn receives water relief
Penrhyn received much-needed relief this week when the Taunga Nui barge arrived with 200,000 litres of water. PHOTO: Kiri Ataera/Infrastructure Cook Islands 21011306-15.

A shipment of water has alleviated a severe shortage on the Northern group atoll of Penrhyn, however with no rain in sight, residents will have to continue rationing supplies.

An impending crisis was averted this when an emergency shipment of water arrived on rain-starved Penrhyn.

Islanders received the much-needed relief late Tuesday when the Taunga Nui barge arrived with 200,000 litres of water after a four-day voyage from Rarotonga.

Upon arrival, roughly 3000 litres was distributed to several homes whose tanks had gone completely dry, said an official with Infrastructure Cook Islands, which assisted in coordinating the delivery.


Up until that point, one family was making daily trips by motorbike to a location near the airport to bring water to their home by the bucket load.

The majority of the water was being stored at the harbour in Omoka village in six new 25,000 litre plastic tanks that also made the trip from Rarotonga aboard the barge.


PHOTO: Kiri Ataera/Infrastructure Cook Islands 21011306-15.

On Wednesday, Penrhyn mayor Rangi Taia began coordinating distribution of the water to homes and community tanks, while also ensuring there would be enough room in the tanks in case the island sees any rain in the coming days.

But the prospect for precipitation is slim, according to the Cook Islands Meteorological Service.

“It doesn’t look promising,” said Met Service director Arona Ngari when asked about the forecast in the coming days.


PHOTO: Kiri Ataera/Infrastructure Cook Islands 21011306-15.

After receiving 9.2 millimetres of rain earlier this week, Ngari said there was little cloud cover expected for Thursday and Friday.

Nearby Manihiki and Rakahanga appeared to be in a better position with cloud bands heading in a southwest direction away from Penrhyn.

In the meantime, the water shipment has brought roughly 40 days of water supplies, said executive officer Puna Vano from Penrhyn Island government.

“There is a sigh of relief,” Vano said. “The residents main concern is drinking water. It’s one thing you don’t want to ration as it’s very hot.”

Yet despite the shipment and the ongoing water shortage amidst a hot and dry summer, rationing among the island’s 250 residents will have to continue, he said.

“We’re still rationing water at about 20 litres a day, per person.”

Vano said residents continue on working to maximising storage while Infrastructure Cook Islands officials set up desalination equipment and construct a water gallery to tap into groundwater resources.


PHOTO: Kiri Ataera/Infrastructure Cook Islands 21011306-15.

“That’s what we’re working on, to get the water storage ready and prepare in case by any chance there is some rain so we can catch it and store it,” he said.

“We’re hoping for the best, but we don’t control nature. We can just adapt and prepare for the situations that will come to us.”