UNEP, SPC Assess Threats to Pacific Freshwater Resources

23 April 2012: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Applied Geoscience and Technology Division, have released a report titled “Freshwater Under Threat – Pacific Islands,” which assesses the vulnerability of freshwater resources to environmental change. 

The assessment concludes that the greatest vulnerability of Pacific Island Countries (PICs) is the lack of freshwater resources in low-lying islands, exacerbated by limited human, financial and management resources, increasing population densities, and vulnerability to climate variability and change.

The report assesses vulnerability on seven islands in seven PICs, namely: Fongafale Islet, Tuvalu; Majuro Atoll, the Marshall Islands; Nauru; Rarotonga, the Cook Islands; Upolu, Samoa; Viti Levu, Fiji; and New Guinea, Papua New Guinea. The assessment concludes that the freshwater resources of the low-lying islands Majuro Atoll, Nauru and Fongafale, are highly to severely vulnerable. All three islands lack surface freshwater resources and have either very limited, or no fresh groundwater resources, and are considered to be broadly representative of low-lying atolls across the Pacific region.

The report underscores that the islands are highly vulnerable to climate variability due to the small rainwater collection area available and increasing populations. It identifies technical and governance capacity as the greatest challenge facing PICs in water resources management. The report further lists the causes that preclude the development and implementation of adequate enabling capacity, including: the remoteness of the islands; their small populations; emigration of skilled professionals out of the region; and typically small administrations dealing with varied complexities of water resource management. [UNEP Press Release] [Publication: Freshwater Under Threat - Pacific Islands] [UN Press Release]