South Tarawa Water Supply Project: Design of a desalination plant and distribution network

South Tarawa, the capital island of the Republic of Kiribati, is a mid-Pacific island nation. South Tarawa itself is a line of low lying coral islands, connected by causeways. Land space is very limited and the population very high and increasing rapidly, placing additional demands on key services such as water supply, sanitation and power. Unlike many atolls, Tarawa is unable to rely on the freshwater lens beneath its surface as its water supply, because it has become polluted due primarily to population density. Rainwater collection and storage is only a partial option. Some fresh water pumped from nearby, less inhabited islets but this is not keeping up with demand. To cope with rising demand and to address poor public health conditions, the island’s water supply is to be supplemented with desalinised sea water, to be constructed on South Tarawa with funding from the ADB. To reduce energy costs (the country is reliant on diesel for power generation) the system will be partly powered by solar generated electricity. Fraser Thomas, through our intensive experience in Kiribati acquired since 2009, have been selected to be part of an  association led by the Finnish Consulting Group engaged to carry out investigations and design, with our brief covering network design, project design, advice on land acquisition and management and on long term training of government staff. Land availability for the desalination plant and network assets, is a particular challenge and close co-operation with communities and authorities is vital.