Water systems Assessment in Polowat, Pulap and Pulusuk, Chuuk, FSM
The first water systems assessment to the Northwest Islands of Chuuk State in the FSM under the Global Climate Change Alliance Plus Scaling Up Pacific Adaptation (GCCA+SUPA) Project was carried out from 4th – 11th June 2021.
The assessment focused on the project sites – Polowat, Pulap and Pulusuk islands, remote low-lying atoll islands in the Northwest Island group of Chuuk State accessible only by boat.
The assessment was part of the GCCA+SUPA project’s support towards strengthening community resilience to water stress and extreme weather events in FSM. The objectives were twofold: (i) introduce the project and consult with communities of Polowat, Pulap and Pulusuk, and (ii) assess the existing rainwater harvesting systems and groundwater wells on the islands. The assessment team, coordinated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), comprised of representatives from the Environmental Health and Sanitation, Department of Marine Resources, International Organization for Migration (IOM) Chuuk Office, Department of Agriculture and Liaison Officers for the three islands.
The assessment’s 8-day itinerary was spread across the three islands with 3 days spent in Polowat (population: 604), 1.5 days in Pulusuk (population: 285), and 2 days in Pulap (population: 488), with travel time between islands accounting for the remaining days. Cultural protocols were observed such that island chiefs and leaders were consulted in advance for their approval. The mission was successful in achieving the approval from the chiefs and leaders, supported by community members, for project implementation in their respective islands.
The assessment findings showed that rainwater harvesting systems are a significant source of drinking water on the islands while groundwater wells are used mainly for washing and bathing.
Many households had some form of tanks installed, although the majority of the tanks were not connected and without cover. Many of the schools, churches and municipal buildings (health clinics and gymnasiums), even though having large roofing areas, do not have rainwater tanks installed, and when they do, they are either insufficient or damaged.
The GCCA+SUPA project will (i) install rainwater harvesting systems at identified community buildings in Polowat, Pulusuk and Pulap, (ii) install a rain gauge in Polowat and provide training on data collection and management, and (iii) support water quality management and monitoring efforts in the islands.
The Director of EPA Chuuk expressed his gratitude to the project highlighting that “past interventions on water systems in the islands were predominantly household-oriented and installing rainwater tanks at community buildings will improve access to drinking water in the communities.”
The centralized water systems will be particularly beneficial to the thatched-roofed households that are unable to install rainwater systems.
The Chief of Pulusuk, Vincent Micky stated that “access to safe drinking water is a continuous struggle for us in the atolls and because we are so remote from Weno (Chuuk’s capital), it is often hard to access alternative sources such as bottled water. We are very grateful to be selected as one of the GCCA+SUPA project sites.”
He further added that access to water becomes extremely dire in times of drought with people boiling groundwater for drinking. The chiefs from all three islands collectively requested the project to engage community members in site selection and installation of the water systems to instil a sense of community ownership of the new water systems.
The information and data collected from the assessment will inform the selection of the community buildings for rainwater systems installation and design of the water systems, as well as the water quality monitoring activities.
A second assessment is expected in August 2021 during which a rain gauge will be installed in Polowat, water testing and monitoring activities delivered on all three islands, and community buildings for installation and water systems designs confirmed.