Solar Powered Desalination Unit En Route to Tuvalu

Tuesday 18 October 2011, 2:41PM
By UNICEF New Zealand

A solar powered desalination unit is en route from Suva to provide desperately needed water to children and their families suffering in the current drought in Tuvalu. The unit, funded by UNICEF NZ (UN Children’s Fund) and the New Zealand government’s aid programme, will arrive on Sunday (23 October).

The unit will provide water for Nauti primary school and a health clinic in Funafuti. Without a water supply the school was under threat of closure meaning 600 pupils would have had to interrupt their education until an unspecified point in the future. All pre-schools on Funafuti are already closed.

An engineer will also travel from New Zealand to Tuvalu to set up and train local staff to operate and maintain the unit. Once up and running the solar powered unit will be able to provide 6000 litres of drinking water per day from sea water, with no fuel costs.

Hamish Lindsay, Programmes Manager at UNICEF NZ, said “The UN recommends that people should be able to access 100 litres of water each a day, but the drought in Tuvalu has limited this to as little as 25 litres a day. The NZ army has said that the water situation in the area is improving, but the reality is that there is still only 5–10% probability of heavier than light rainfall over the next eight days.

“It’s clear that this water crisis is far from over and therefore the arrival of this solar desalination unit is especially timely. It will provide much-needed water to those who are most vulnerable, whilst also allowing a significant number of children to continue to attend school.

“We applied to the NZ government for funding for this unit since we recognized how vulnerable the Pacific islands’ water supply can be in times of emergency. Water is critical for normal life and we hope that this unit can help to alleviate some of the current suffering for the people of Tuvalu.”

UNICEF is working very closely with the Government of Tuvalu, other UN agencies and NGOs to help those most affected and is also planning to ship in more humanitarian supplies to people affected by the drought.

The desalination unit was purchased this year from Auckland based company, Enertec. For more information on how the unit works go to: