Over recent months there has been much media speculation regarding ongoing water shutdowns by the Nation’s designated water utility, Solomon Water.
The reason for this is directly attributable to high turbidity (sediment and dirt particles in water) following rain upstream of the Kongulai Water Source which supplies 40% (12 Million litres per day) of Honiara’s water needs.
Solomon Water Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mr. Ian Gooden said “the key underlying cause of increase high turbidity are the illegal or unmanaged logging activities upstream in the Kongulai catchment water area. This is a big challenge for us as we are a victim of these activities but we have a responsibility to provide safe and healthy water to our customers”.
The logging activities that cause turbidity is beyond anything Solomon Water could have done. We have become victims of these activities, and unfortunately the people of Honiara by consequence are also victims of these logging activities. Solomon Water sincerely regrets the inconvenience this has caused to our customers.
“As we do not have a Water Treatment Plant, the action is necessary to ensure that quality and safe water is distributed to our customers. The reason for the shutdown during wet weather is we have to wait until water is safe for distribution. If we keep on producing water the disinfection process cannot kill any bacteria in the water, making it potentially unsafe and pose health risk to customers. It will also clog the pipes and customers’ facilities”, said Mr Gooden.
With joint partnership with respective stakeholders the logging upstream has now been stopped and we are working to manage the situation, however it will take months or years for the area to recover from the effects of logging. The loggers have not fully complied with the conditions of their licences issued by the relevant ministries.
Solomon Water Board Chairman, Carson Korowa said “there are many challenges that Solomon Water is going through as it strives to provide clean and safe water for its customers in places where it operate. A new treatment plant for Kongulai is under design, but these things do not happen quickly and it will not be ready until early 2021.” The plant will cost about $120m to build plus millions of dollars a year to operate.
A stakeholders briefing was held on Thursday 8 July 2019 at the Iron Bottom Sound Hotel where Solomon Water CEO, Chairman and executives made an informative presentation to key stakeholders on the Kongulai Water Issue. The forum was successful and there were many positive feedbacks received. Chairman of the Yumi TokTok forum, Mr. Benjamin Afuga said it was an excellent initiative as it provides factual information and offers the opportunity for them to ask critical issues of concern to Solomon Water.
Other initiatives Solomon Water is taking is reactivating some of our tension damaged bores in White River and also disused boreholes in Panatina and Kombito. These should be operating again in a few months’ time. We have increased our efforts to stop water loss including water theft and leakage. Investigation of a Carbon trading scheme whereby landowners are compensated to not log and preserve the forest is also under assessment and has been discussed with key stakeholders recently. This could include replanting the logged areas to try and stop the earth being washed away by rain, but is a long term catchment management solution.
Given the current situation, Solomon Water continues to advise customers to store water in containers, buckets and tanks at all times, boil all water during rainy times and be our eyes and ears in the community to report leaks and illegal water connections.