Water quality and supply in urban areas of South Tarawa and Kiritimati are a significant issue due to periodic storm surges and droughts, with the majority of water obtained from groundwater lenses through the use of shallow wells. Due to the lack of sewage treatment on the islands, groundwater supplies are commonly contaminated. Well water testing carried out in late 2009 found that all water tested from samples in Betio and Bairiki, villages within South Tarawa, showed positive faecal coliform results. Infants are particularly vulnerable to water-borne diseases, with a reported four infants/children dying due to diarrhea disease every month in South Tarawa. These issues are compounded by an increasing population drift from the outer islands to urban areas of South Tarawa in particular.
EWBNZ were engaged by MFAT (New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) to undertake a feasibility study and design of rainwater harvesting measures in South Tarawa and Kiritimati (Christmas) Island.
Ben Sherriff, a graduate civil engineer from Opus and member of the Engineers Without Borders Auckland Professionals Branch, visited the Kiribati Islands to undertake the site visit portion of the project. After Ben completed this work, Supun Perera, a recent graduate of the University of Auckland and recently returned from aid work in Africa, visited to assist MFAT in getting a contractor engaged, receiving the materials deliveries from offshore and then supervising the works that were done.
This goal of this work in Kiribati was to increase potable water supplies through rainwater harvesting at community facilities for household use, particularly to benefit poor residents in urban areas of South Tarawa and Kiritimati Island.