The United States has pledged $1,786,000 in assistance for water security and drought resiliency in its three Freely Associated States, including Palau.

The project, which involves collaboration between the United States Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs and the Bureau of Reclamation, aims to improve the quality of drinking water and the availability of water during times of drought in Palau, as well as in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).

This pledge follows an assessment of seventeen water treatment plants across Palau operated by the Palau Public Utilities Corporation (PPUC), which was conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation in February of this year.

The assessment determined that “most [of the plants in Palau] are not currently complying with regulatory drinking water standards”.

The assessment also determined that water shortage during times of drought is a problem for Palau due to the limitations in storing capacity, such as shallow dams.

The funding will support the recommendations made by Reclamation in its assessment, and projects aimed at improvements during 2021, such as alternative water treatment methods, improving storage capacity of water supplies, and alternative water supply sources.

“This [project] will benefit all people in the islands . . . with reliable expertise in water distribution and water resource management,” said Interior Assistant Secretary of Insular and International Affairs, Douglas W. Domenech.

The February assessment, which was conducted by two engineers from the Technical Service Center’s Water Treatment Group and one engineer from the Native American and International Affairs Office, investigated sixteen water-treatment plants in Babeldaob and one in Peleliu. The assessments involved meeting with the plants’ operators and examinations of the plants, reservoirs, and distribution systems.

The team determined that the majority of the plants use direct filtration systems with no sedimentation process, followed by chlorine disinfection. They also determined that residual chemicals such as chlorine could be found in the water entering the distribution systems, while noting that locals often boil their water before drinking it or buy imported water.

The report also cites the turbidity and fluctuations of pH in the water, which could cause metals in the piping to enter the water.

“The limitations of equipment, instrumentation, and supplies do not provide adequate controls to ensure safe drinking water supplies,” the report states.

Reclamation also completed a hydraulic computer model and GIS database for the Majuro Sewer and Water Company in the RMI, and plans to review the Nanpil Hydropower Plant on Pohnpei, FSM, once flight availability in the Micronesian region allows.

The funding is part of a $200 million Pacific Pledge made by the US Department of State on October 1, which aims at supporting various infrastructural projects in many islands of the Pacific in 2021.

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