Matt Update 2

In short time at Meltungon village, I spent some time doumenting their water supply.

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This is a small rainfall harvesting structure built by the locals - some roofing iron propped up on sticks. It's around 1.5 m by 4 m, and leads into a concrete tank. The tank is currently empty, as it has barely rained for 2 months. It is supposed to be the rainy season right now.

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Another rooftop collection structure and community house, built by an aid worker. The structure is generally in good condition, except for the roof, which is rusted through, and also has a hole in it which means that no water is being collected. The concrete tank is about 20 m3 in size, but unfortunately receives no water. For the village, this is a major piece of infrastructure which not being used.

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A view into the tank.

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This is Philip, chief of Meltungon village. He is extremely concerned by the lack of water, but the village does not currently have the funds, support or technical expertise to develop a more comprehensive water supply system. Philip is standing in front of a rainfall collection structure built by the Red Cross.

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The structure is a monopitch 5 m by 10 m building and has an approximately 6 m3 water tank. Water from the roof is collected by a gutter, which drains into the tank. A first flush diverter is provided for treatment (the downpipe). The first rainfall in any rain event will collect dust and other contaminants from the roof. This is diverted into the downpipe. Once the downpipe is full of water, the rest of the water flows over the top of it and into the water tank. The first flush diverter slowly  releases water over a day or two, so that it is ready for the next rain event.

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There is still some water left in the tank, but it is used sparingly.

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The roof rafters of the structure consist of local timber. The purlins were also local timber, but warped badly within a year of construction, and so the red cross returned and replaced them with NZ timber. You can see the rafters also beginning to warp. They may require replacement soon.

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The Red Cross structure is a great asset to the village, but alone it is not sufficient to meet their water needs. Chief Philip wants more structures like this, particularly to collect water in the concrete tanks in the village which do not have a functioning roof collection area.

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Because most of the water tanks in the village are empty, the villagers are forced to make a long journey by truck and then on foot to a groundwater spring to get enough water. During the dry season, they make this journey almost every day. It staggers my mind that this spring is the lifeline for not just Meltungon Village, but another 4 to 5 villages as well, all told perhaps 300 people. I estimated the spring flow rate to be around 300 ml/minute, or roughly 500 L/day.

This is one village of many in West Ambrym. The Red Cross have done a great job of building rainfall harvesting structures throughout the region similar to the one in Meltungon throughout the region. They are valuable assets, but they are not large enough, and there are not enough of them to meet the demand for water in all the villages. My experience in Meltungon has truly impressed upon me the desperation of the water situation on Ambrym.