Te Ipukarea Society: Drinking water for the remote Tokelau atolls

Saturday July 20, 2019 Written by Published in Environment
Nurses at Tokelau’s hospital at Nukunonu now have access to purified water. 19071938 Nurses at Tokelau’s hospital at Nukunonu now have access to purified water. 19071938

Tokelau is a small island (big ocean) territory of New Zealand, located west of Pukapuka and north of Samoa.  It has a total population of only 1500 people, with less than 10 sq km of total land area. 

COMMENT: The only way to get to Tokelau is by boat from Apia, Samoa, on one of the two boats owned and operated by the Tokelau Shipping Corporation. 

The voyage takes between one and two days depending on which of the three atolls you are heading to. 

Te Ipukarea Society Technical Director Kelvin Passfield, and water supply expert Kees van Wijk from Aquaflow in Tupapa, recently travelled to Tokelau for the final phase of a safe drinking water project.

Extreme weather events such as droughts and storms are reported to be occurring more often, and be more severe, because of climate change. In times of severe weather conditions, access to safe drinking water is of prime importance for isolated communities.

This was one of the reasons behind the decision undertake a safe drinking water project in Tokelau.  It is also hoped that the project will significantly reduce the amount of bottled water being imported into Tokelau in plastic bottles.

The work was undertaken as a part of a Global Environment Facility Small Grant Programme Global Grant project for community based adaptation to climate change.  The project is funded by Australia, and is being implemented by Te Ipukarea Society. 

On a previous visit earlier this year six water purification stations were installed on Fakaofo Atoll and Atafu atoll. On this last trip, four drinking water stations were installed on Nukunonu.  Altogether the project has now installed 10 drinking water stations in Tokelau.

Rain water is used exclusively in Tokelau. Water storage is mainly in large concrete tanks under buildings, and also in a number of plastic tanks.

The water purifying stations were connected to existing large water tanks that have been built under community buildings such as schools, hospitals, and women’s centres.  

From the water tanks, the water is pumped through a 2 stage filtration process, removing particles greater than 1 micron.  This is sufficient to filter out Giardia and Cryptosporidium cysts, which can cause gastro-intestinal problems.

In the final phase of the system the water passes through an ultra-violet steriliser, which kills more than 99.9% of bacteria.

Members of the community on each atoll were trained in maintenance of the purification units, and a good supply of spare parts, such as pumps, filters, and ultra violet light bulbs, was provided. 

A short video on maintenance was also made, which will also be uploaded to YouTube so that it is always available as a reference

Te Ipukarea Society acknowledges the support of the General Managers and plumbing staff of the threee atolls of Fakaofo, Nukunonu, and Atafu and their plumbing staff.

The society is also working on climate change projects in Niue, (organic agriculture) and the Cook Islands (coastal erosion) under the same funding.



1 comment

  • Comment Link Celina Saturday, 20 July 2019 14:27 posted by Celina

    This cost effective system needs to be implemented in our own islands. The govt should stop the Chinese brainwashing them into making erratic decisions compromising the welfare n health of our people n future generations. Thank you CIs News for keeping our people informed .Meitaki Maata.

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