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Water intakes ‘under stress’: Unsupervised scrub fires resulting in unnecessary usage

Friday 25 November 2022 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Environment, National


Water intakes ‘under stress’: Unsupervised scrub fires resulting in unnecessary usage
A leaking water pipe during extremely dry conditions wastes water. Picture:TTV/22112317

The recent ‘light rain’ had no impact on the water intakes due to the extremely dry weather, and some areas on the island are without water due to the lack of flows in the catchment stream intakes.

To Tatou Vai’s Walter Tuarae-White says five of its catchments are producing less than 50 per cent of their output, adding the Rarotonga water network is under stress to provide water to some locations across the island.

The Ngatoe water intake which feeds the backroad districts from Rutaki to the Rarotonga hospital is down to 35 per cent of its flow “which is causing supply issues in the area”.

“Avana our largest catchment that supplies the main road areas from Avana through to Blackrock is down 50 per cent of its flow.”

The total water output as of Monday, November 21 across the 10 intakes on the island was 12,165 cubic metre per day.

Taking into consideration that the residential population is approximately 10,000 plus 2000 visitors, “an estimate would suggest we are consuming approximately 1000L per person per day”, said Tuarae-White.

“From a water usage perspective, this very high.

“If you are living on the lowest parts of the island or near the coast, remember when you open your tap you are depriving people inland of water. So be sure to shut off your tap and use water sparingly.

“We encourage everybody to fix your leaks, don’t let water run continuously and to conserve water.”

Tuarae-White also said the recent spike in scrub fires on the island had resulted in unnecessary use of water.

The firefighting teams have reported they have used over 10,000 litres to bring fires under control in the past week or so.

“We support their (Volunteer Fire Services) calls for our community to be a lot more conscious of the current dry conditions and prevailing winds,” said Tuarae-White.

“We simply cannot afford to dispense water in this manner under the present circumstances, so please if you are going to burn near scrub/bush be mindful it will spread very quickly.

“Please consider the welfare of our volunteer fire fighters, burning scrub rubbish in the current conditions isn’t safe and can get out of control and endanger properties and possibly lives.”

On Monday in Titikaveka, a buried tree/log rubbish fire attended to by the Takitumu Volunteer Fire Brigade used up to 1500 litres of water to keep it under control.

After calls from worried neighbours who could see embers blowing up with the increased winds, the Takitumu Fire Brigade returned to the scene that evening.

Takitumu Volunteer Fire Brigade chief Alistair Macquarie said working from 10.30pm to 1.30am, the firefighters used up 11,000 litres of water through the night to douse the fire which had spread underground beneath old dumped tree logs.

“We are a volunteer fire service, we have to call people up, and get the trucks ready… people need to pay attention and think before they light any fires in high winds and dry conditions. Water is wasted on putting out unnecessary fires.”