A backup water source to support the communities of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands to access safe and clean drinking water during drought conditions has recently been investigated.
Geophysics and electrical resistivity testing of the island carried out by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, in partnership with the Cook Islands government, identified groundwater sources that could provide useful volumes of fresh water, particularly useful during droughts.
Currently, the island relies on shallow groundwater and rainwater harvesting for most of its water needs; however, drought conditions in 2013 and 2017 led to water rationing, with most of these water sources being impacted and insufficient for water demands.
Investigations into deeper and more reliant groundwater sources will help ensure water demands are met, supplementing the existing water sources when drought conditions occur in the future.
Aitutaki’s Mayor Tekura Poo Bishop said he was pleased to have the team from Infrastructure Cook Islands, Aitutaki Island government, and SPC as it will “help in finding a more reliable source of fresh water, especially during times of drought when our community struggle.”
Aitutaki Island government Water Works Division supervisor Tukua Upokomanu said the results are promising, stating, “We will now need to drill these targets and carry out pumping tests to confirm the extent and usefulness of the freshwater for the community.”
It is hoped the work will also be extended to neighboring islands with discussions to complete the testing in Mangaia, Atiu, and Mitiaro.
Infrastructure Cook Islands Secretary Ngametua Pokino said, “I am keen to explore further opportunities for the same work to be extended, especially for those islands that require the drilling of groundwater boreholes as their main water source.”
The work was carried out by the SPC’s Disaster Community Resilience Program, in partnership with Aitutaki Island government and Infrastructure Cook Islands, in March, with sites located for proposed drilling locations.
The findings were presented to the community and stakeholders in March and it is hoped a drilling schedule to install boreholes, and a resource management plan will now be developed for the newly discovered water source.
The mission was part of SPC’s Atoll Water Security project, funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. (SPC)