The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. is preparing an action plan to assess and address the water needs of Saipan and to bring 24-hour water service to all areas.
At least three members of the CUC board held an operations meeting with CUC’s water division to gather information and come up with an action plan, which they will then present to the Executive and Legislative branches.
In an interview, CUC acting executive director Gary Camacho, part of their discussion was the current water status and supply as well as the root cause of their problems.
Camacho said they identified faulty meters, water theft, water source, and leaks as among their main concerns for the water division.
“All of those attribute to water losses in the island, however, we are producing adequate supply, and we believe at this time, we are producing adequate supply to meet demand. However, due to the items mentioned, they are affecting our ability to provide water,” Camacho said.
Camacho added that because of these issues, they are also unable to determine the exact water demand in the island and that it is difficult to determine their losses.
To address some of the issues, Camacho said they have been in the process of updating water meters.
“We’re changing thousands of meters, we have another thousand in transit. These meters are different that we will be using to replace the faulty type of meters and this is to effectively record the water usage and to have a better understanding of the demand,” Camacho said.
“We’ve replaced a few thousand over the last few years,” he added.
Camacho said they also plan to heighten their leak detection program as well as monitor theft.
“We again try to closely monitor water theft, to ensure that everybody pays for the water they use and effectively stop those kinds of situation,” Camacho said.
With regards to water sources, Camacho said they will be doing some work with the current wells.
“There are some wells that have well casings that have deteriorated and will have to be re-drilled. The engineering department is putting a scope of work together to advertise that for award,” Camacho said, “We believe that those will add to our source and provide more water supply for the island.”
One particular area of concern is the Maui IV shaft well hat had portions of its cement wall collapse into its basin and resulted to a pump failure last March. Extensive repairs are said to be needed on the existing cements walls that are 220 feet deep.
The well is a source of water for Garapan, China Town, Puerto Rico, and Navy Hill areas.
“We’re working with our engineering department and operations division also to try to make a determination,” Camacho said, “It looks as if we’re going to outsource the repairs and try to initiate repairs so we can get that in operations as soon as possible.”
Camacho said they are looking into both short- and long-term plans.
“The growing demand of the island, economic boom, adds more demand and challenges to the water program along with power and waste water, but we have short and long term plans and we’re moving forward in trying to address all these areas as they come on line,” Camacho said
“There is a capacity that we have and we’re reviewing and making a determination whether alternative sources are going to be required,” he added.
Part of the options that could be looked at is having a reverse osmosis system.
“It could be, it’s obviously a technology that could be used but right now we’re trying to address our immediate issues and try to correct inefficiencies,” Camacho said.
“The effort is to again try to heighten our effort to bring 24-hour water to areas not receiving it,” he added.
The action plan is yet to be finalized and will be submitted to the board to present to lawmakers as well as Lt. Gov. Victor Hocog, who expressed to the board his interests in having this plan in place.
Prior to the meeting, vice chair Eric San Nicolas voiced in the board’s third day of board meeting last month on March 28 the need to have a plan and a consolidated message to the public with regards to the water issue.
“If they need to declare a state of emergency, they will but they can’t make that decision because we’re sending out two different messages,” San Nicolas said.
San Nicolas said the board wanted to know the challenges and causes “of the inability to provide 24-hour water supply” and to “have a plan to present to legislature and executive branch.”
“If funding is required, then that’s the kind of conversation that we’ll have,” San Nicolas said.
“This is about our water issue, our water problems. We just need an update of where we’re at as far as the supply of water,” echoed chair Adelina Roberto, adding that they will have an action plan as “that’s what the lieutenant governor wants us to do.”