Sustainable Development of Water Resources in Small Island Nations of the Pacific

This paper uses examples from the Pacific to discuss sustainable water management ìn small islands. Population centres in small islands have water supply problems that are amongst the most critical in the world. Limited land areas severely restrict surface water storages. Freshwater is extremely vulnerable to natural processes and human activities. Limited land areas also restrict freshwater quantities, particularly in frequent ENSO-related droughts. Demand for water is increasing due to both natural population growth and to growing urbanisation. There are few water professionals in many small island nations, policy and institutional frameworks are deficient and community participation in water management is minimal. Water use for agriculture competes with community water supplies. Limited resources and geographic isolation restrict the potential for irrigated crop exports so that reliance on aid is systemic. At the core of water management problems are land tenure and the conflict between the requirements of urbanised societies and the traditional values and rights of subsistence communities. Reforms of governance and the provision of knowledge to communities are critical. Long-term partnerships are needed which promote self-reliance. Multi Agent Systems offer potential for reducing conflicts over water. Regional organisations, able to foster self-support, can play a crucial role in developing island-adopted and owned solutions.

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