Water Quality in PalauThe Republic of Palau is part of the Micronesian region in the western Pacific Ocean. Consisting of a series of islands, Palau is about 458 square kilometers in total size with a population of 21,726. Palau is famous for its beautiful natural environment. Its coral reefs are known as one of the “Seven Underwater Wonders of the World.” The water quality in Palau is considered to be safe for its citizens. However, due to the development in Palau in the recent years and the lack of awareness of protecting drinking water sources, poor water quality may become a huge problem in the future.

Palau’s main water sources are the Ngerikiil River and the Ngerimel Dam. The Ngerikiil River is a freshwater stream that is widely used for residential and agricultural purposes. The Ngerimel Dam has a storage capacity of 20 million gallons of water. Both water sources are well-protected and minimal human activity exists in the watershed area. The Ngerkiil River produces one million gallons per day and the Ngerimel Dam produces three million gallons per day.

The water is fed into the Koror-Airal water treatment plant for use by three-fourths of the population of Palau. The water is collected in a chamber called the “wet well,” where minerals are added. Then the water is pumped into a series of clarifiers in order to remove suspended solids.

Palau’s surface water, groundwater and coastal water qualities are facing challenges from pollution. Sedimentation is the main source of pollution and lowers the quality of surface water. The sedimentation is caused by poor erosion controls, loss of riparian buffers, and poor land-use practices. The groundwater sources are polluted by poorly maintained septic tanks, leaching from nearby landfills and saltwater intrusion. Coastal water quality is affected by land-based pollution, as well as by gasoline and oil from outboard motors and ships. According to the Pacific Water Community, the water quality in Palau may also face challenges such as sewage, chemical pollution and oil spills due to future development on the larger islands.

According to studies by the Pacific Water Community, the water storage and treatment process also has hidden trouble. The drinking water is facing the threat of chemical contamination. The water storage and treatment facilities do not have enough funds to purchase relevant equipment or to carry out repairs and maintenance.

Palau’s government noticed some of the pollution and has started to reduce the causes. The government is trying to improve land-use management within the watershed and drainage around roads to reduce the pollution in the surface water. A better filtration system will be added to the water treatment process to remove suspended solids. To prevent the catchment being affected by human and animal contamination, the Palau government is trying to establish stringent catchment management plans. The water storage and treatment facilities will receive more funding in the near future for better equipment.

In conclusion, the water quality in Palau is not a problem so far. However, it will become a huge problem for Palau’s citizens in the future if the pollution continues. The water quality problem needs more attention from Palau’s government.

Mike Liu

Photo: Flickr

Is water a commodity or a human right? Too many people, governments, and institutions see water as something merely to be bought and sold, and not as something every person on earth needs for survival. Like food, health care, educational and economic opportunities, and many of the other things we write about on the blog, safe water is a human right and necessity. Since 1993, the UN has designated March 22 as World Water Day. This serves to bring attention to, advocate for sustainable management of, and celebrate clean, fresh water.

2013 has also been designated the International Year of Water Cooperation, so this year’s World Water Day holds special significance. Events will be held across the globe to foster international cooperation around water. Because of the organization’s interdisciplinary approach to worldwide problems, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will coordinate the Day on behalf of UN-Water.

This day serves many purposes, including raising public awareness of water issues facing the globe and advocating for improvements in water management. Access to clean, safe drinking water is a major health concern among the world’s poorest populations. 88 percent of cases of diarrhea, the number one cause of death and illness in the world, are due to a lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Almost a billion people do not have access to improved water sources, while 2.5 billion live without adequate sanitation facilities.

While the statistics are disturbing, we can do something to improve these conditions. World Water Day is an opportunity to learn about water issues and take action on behalf of those whose basic water needs are not being met. To learn more about World Water Day 2013 and the International Year of Water Cooperation, visit the UN’s World Water Day page.

– Kat Henrichs
Source: UN-Water