Climate adaptation in the water sector in SI

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BY ELLISON VAHI

THE impacts of Climate Change are often felt first through water.

According to the SIWSAP reports through the social media has expected that by 2050, globally, it is projected that at least one in four people will be affected by frequent water shortages. For the Solomon Islands, this is already a reality for much of the population.

Although by no means water scarce or even water stressed as a country, Solomon Islands has a very difficult time when it comes to its citizens having year round access to sufficient safe water resources, with water shortages common under normal climate changeability and set to increase with through the impacts of Climate Change.

Population at national level accessing a basic water service lapsed between 2000 and 2015 and alarmingly, Solomon Islands had the largest worsening globally for that period, averaging more than a 1 percent decline per year.

In 2015, only 35 percent of the population were using an improved water supply which was available when needed, a decrease from 44 percent in 2000 .When considering rural populations, the decline has been worse, declining 19 percent from 68 percent to 49 percent.

These statistics also highlight that there has been a shifting over-reliance on rainwater and that the rainwater resource is more frequently unavailable when needed, which has clear linkages to the impacts of Climate Change.

In addition, Water shortages are a particular challenge in some coastal communities on main islands and surrounding low-lying islands and atolls.

Often in these places there is a heavy over reliance on rainwater as the sole source of drinking water as there are few as well no surface or spring water sources. Shallow freshwater lenses are often salty and adjustable in volume and salinity due to rainfall and tidal variations respectively.

These conditions make the people highly vulnerable to any changes to seasonal climatic variations and medium and longer term Climate Changes. This vulnerability is compounded by the challenge presented with providing cost effective support systems to townships and communities that are very remote.

Moreover, Climate Change projections for Solomon Islands are uncertain, however based on the Current and future climate of Solomon Islands report (PACCSAP, 2011) stated that, there are a few predictions that have been made with high or very high confidence such as; an increase in days with extremely high temperatures, an increase in extreme rainfall events that may cause flooding and Sea Level Rise occur in the range of 45cm to 75cm by the year 2100.

These predictions are bad news for vulnerable coastal regions, low-lying islands and atolls over dependent on rainwater, as it is likely there will be longer and more frequent gaps between rainfall events as well, Freshwater lens will be further affected by lower recharge due to increased extreme heat and salty interruption.

In relation, there is a very real risk that if the Solomon Islands does not urgently find ways to adapt to Climate Change and its impacts on water resources, that the people living in low lying coastal areas and atolls may become Climate Change Internally Displaced People due to declining freshwater.

The likely resulting relocation of these people will put an increased strain on water resources and land, which at worst could encourage conflict between different groups of people.

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