Managing Coastal Aquifers Project to support the safeguarding of freshwater resources in the Marshall Islands

Testing the salinity of pumped groundwater through an infiltration gallery (horizontal well) in Laura, Majuro Atoll, RMI.

A new model to better manage the freshwater resources of the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) is being developed by specialist technical and scientific consultancy, Amphos 21, part of the RSK Group, building upon more than three decades of modelling by the Pacific Community (SPC).

As an island nation, Marshall communities face constant pressures in accessing water resources, a challenge that is being exacerbated by climate change. The findings from the project will be used by SPC and the RMI Government to better understand how to manage freshwater resources in the face of climate change, rising sea levels, changes to the natural recharge of aquifers, and storm weather events.  

The project is managed by SPC, the leading scientific and technical agency for the Pacific region working alongside Pacific nations and is part of its Managing Coastal Aquifers (MCA) Project which is aimed at identifying threats and improving access to freshwater for island communities.

Amphos 21 Water and Environment Director Elena Abarca, who is also the project manager, said: “The predictions attained through the model will provide crucial guidance on groundwater management. With this data, it will be possible to better understand the behaviour of groundwater under different conditions and extreme events, like drought and storm inundation, ensuring communities can access and manage the resource upon which they rely in a sustainable way.”

Elena continues: “These communities are threatened by climate change, the risk of sea level rise and the limitations of land availability. Across the Pacific Islands states, natural disasters and extreme weather events are threatening access to their only reliable source of freshwater".
Improving the management plan will have a substantial positive impact on the population of the Islands. Designing and implementing action informed by these models will minimise the vulnerability of communities across the atoll to the impacts of climate change, of which they are at the forefront.”

Groundwater infiltration gallery (horizontal well) in Laura, Majuro Atoll, RMI.

SPC’s Water Resources and Monitoring Assessment Coordinator, Peter Sinclair,  Explained: “This model will allow communities to make better decisions around the management of their drinking water as the impact of sea flooding or sea level rise puts pressure on this vital freshwater source. SPC has worked with communities and government on this freshwater lens for more than 20 years and this modelling work will ensure the decisions being made are supported by science-based evidence.”

Over the course of this year, the team of five consultants who specialise in hydrogeology and coastal hydrogeology, will develop a model of groundwater flow and salinity across the island using historic data in collaboration with SPC and the Marshall Islands Government. This will then enable the prediction of freshwater availability under projected future climate scenarios, including sea level rises and storm surges which threaten this vital resource.

The MCA project is being implemented by SPC in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

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