Home to over 17,000 people, Rarotonga is the site of the largest infrastructure project undertaken by the Cook Islands Government.
With much of the water network having been laid in in the 1960s, the infrastructure is showing its age rendering water supply unreliable and unsafe. With support from the New Zealand Government the Te Mato Vai project was created to overhaul the existing infrastructure.
The first stage of the project saw a new pipe network built around Rarotonga as well as significant upgrades to 10 of the 12 water intake sites.
Streams fed by mountain rainfall flow through a series of filters before collecting in settling tanks where sediment is separated. It then flows through green sand filter tanks with waste clearing into ponds. Finally clean water is stored in large tanks to be pumped to homes and businesses around the island.
Tangianau Taoro, who was involved with the project, is pleased with the results so far. “The people of Rarotonga … can see now that the quality of the water is a lot better in terms of cleanliness.”
“We’ve had really heavy torrential rain and the amazing thing is the water is clean as compared to before,” said Taoro.
The generosity of landowners was crucial to the success of the project, gifting land to be used as sites for the water intakes. Their contribution is recognised at each intake site with a plaque provided by the government as a “small token of appreciation … to the landowners” says Taoro.
The Cook Islands Water Authority, To Tato Vai, are overseeing the next steps of the project. This includes gaining approval for chlorination to remove harmful bacteria making the water safe to drink by World Health Organization standards.
A video about the infrastructure upgrade is now airing on PasifikaTV.