Kiribati Water Quality Training 2020

SPC Pacific Ridge to Reef Programme Coordination Unit in partnership with the Institute of Applied Sciences of the University of the South Pacific (IAS-USP), wrapped up a 1-week training for 20 participants from the ministries and agencies responsible for the environment, fisheries, agriculture, infrastructure, public and environmental health in Tarawa last week. 

In her opening remarks on launching the training, the Director of the Environment and Conservation Division of the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development , Ms Nenteiti Teariki Ruatu stressed the importance of the training in building capacity and enhance technical knowledge in water quality testing and the use of test kits. 

With increasing population and the effects of climate change, water contamination continues to be a priority environment threat in Kiribati.  The Government welcomes assistance from Ridge to Reef in addressing water contamination, and this training provides the opportunity to work towards fixing the problem.

Led by Pacific R2R and Science Team Leader, Samasoni Sauni and IAS-USP Consultant, Iliana Marama, the training included:

  1. Water quality monitoring and assessment training for the IW R2R project team at the Environment and Conservation Division (ECD);
  2. Conducting baseline water quality assessment and the use of water quality test kits;
  3. Facilitating discussion towards development of a Monitoring Plan for the pilot site.

Water samples were collected from ten (10) bore-holes (depths 5-30m) and four (4) ground-water wells (depths 0.5-1.5m) in the Bonriki water reserve.  There were water hoses installed at different depths in the bore-holes to pump up water samples for testing.  To investigate water quality at different depths, samples were collected from pre-selected 6m and 12m depths. The water hoses set at 6m and 12m worked well for most of the bore-holes, but collecting from greater depths was unsuccessful.   

“There was little to no difference in most of the physical-chemical-biological parameters, which suggests future samples can be taken at any depth for comparison.” Sauni noted.

“However, high levels of coliforms and E. coli were recorded in several boreholes and wells, suggesting water reserve contamination from human and animal waste, and possibly a graveyard in the vicinity,” he added.

The problem of abandoned scrap metals, including old vehicles, in the reserve prompted the Director of Environment requesting further investigation into these other contaminants.

Ongoing monitoring of the selected sites is expected to provide further validation and clear trends in the quality of water in the Bonriki reserve and enable an informed understanding of possible candidate sources of pollution, thereby informing strategic actions for management of the reserve.

Given the importance of selecting control sites as part of the sampling strategy, the R2R Technical Working Group, will, at their next sitting, consider focusing R2R interventions only in the Bonriki Water Reserve, while treating the Buota Water Reserve as a control site. 

Overall, the training workshop was successful, recognising the workshop participants appear to show more interest in the practical work of collecting water samples and learning how to use water quality test kits and related equipment in the field, than analysing samples in the lab. 

The Kiribati IW R2R Project staff and staff at the Environment and Conservation Division were instrumental in the coordination, support and logistical arrangements for this training.