Desalination Equipment Rushed to Drought-Stricken Pacific Nation

Military airplanes from Australia and New Zealand are delivering a large desalination unit to the drought-stricken Pacific nation of Tuvalu, where water supplies have nearly run dry after six months without rain. The tiny island nation, which has a population of about 11,000 people, has declared a state of emergency, with officials predicting that drinking water could run out within days. In addition to record drought conditions caused by the La Nina weather phenomenon, officials say rising seas have contaminated groundwater supplies. While New Zealand had already sent desalination equipment to the remote island nation, its foreign minister said more capacity is needed to meet the nation’s needs. On the main island of Funafuti, where the majority of the population lives, water is already being rationed. “At present the two operating desalination plants at Funafuti are producing a combined volume of 43,000 liters a day,” said New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully. “The minimum requirement for the 5,300 residents is 79,500 liters a day.” The Australian government has also sent 1,000 rehydration packs for Tuvalu’s hospitals and provided money to fuel the desalination plants.