Palau President calls for 24-hour efforts to address water shortage

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“All options must be explored to alleviate the ongoing water crisis,” Palau President Tommy Remengesau said to the members of the National Emergency Committee (NEC) in his Cabinet meeting.

“We should be working 24 hours a day and we have to place emphasis on team work and go beyond the normal call of duty” to address the problem, President Remengesau added.

The Palau Public Utilities Corporation (PPUC) reports a further drop in water level at the Ngerikiil reservoir dam providing water to Koror and Airai. This has led to one pump extracting water to the water treatment center in Ngeruluobel. In turn, less water is being pumped into the holding tanks located in Airai, Ngerkesoaol, Ngermid and Ngerkebesang.

“The water levels in the tanks dropped from 21 feet last week to just 14 feet this week, necessitating reduced water production hours. There is not enough water being sourced from the dam to the treatment center to fill the holding tanks, PPUC CEO, Kione Isechal emphasised at the NEC meeting.

Isechal further said that at least eight wells – six in Airai and two in Koror - are in various stages of readiness to be brought on line to provide supplemental water to residents. PPUC is working with the Bureau of Public Works to expedite the work, which include installing the necessary pumps and connecting electrical power to the sites.

According to Isechal, PPUC has met with several state governors about the possibility of sourcing water from their watersheds and flowing streams. It was also disclosed that several diplomatic partners and private sector partners have offered emergency assistance. All assistance are being confirmed and inventoried for equitable distribution.

Financially, following the state of emergency declaration and activation of the NEC, funding to procure machinery and assets to mitigate the water crisis can be sourced quickly, bypassing the normal procurement process.

Weather service officials – citing the latest forecasts – predict that present drought conditions will continue through May, when normal rainfall is expected to resume.

The NEC comprises of various government agencies and responds to emergencies and natural disasters.

Weather forecasters say the drought conditions prevailing over a large section of the Pacific region is due to El Nino, the weather pattern associated with a sustained period of warming in the central Pacific which can create climate extremes.