More work needed on water access, quality: report
A large percentage of Samoa’s population have access to water but more needs to be done to ensure access is “continuous and of reliable quality”, says an Asian Development Bank (A.D.B.) report.
The report titled “Review of Opportunities for the Pacific WASH Sector” provided a snapshot of the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic period from March 2020 to August 2021.
It shared light on the “experiences, lessons, and aspirations” of Pacific nations to take on the challenges posed by the pandemic and was released in December 2021.
The A.D.B. report said Samoa had both “surface water” and “groundwater” resources and over 40 river systems, with the Samoa Water Authority (S.W.A.) providing 89 per cent of the population with a water supply service, and the Independent Water Schemes Association, operating in village-owned systems the other 10 per cent.
However, a large population's access to water did not necessarily equate to access for all, which the report noted is one area that should be worked on.
“Although the percentage of population with water access is high, work remains ensure that access is continuous and of reliable quality,” stated the report.
And while 97 per cent of Samoa’s population used an “improved sanitation system” with septic tanks being the most common, the report raised concerns about its discharge and the impact on the environment.
“These septic tanks frequently discharge to the water table, causing contamination.”
The threat of typhoid fever in Samoa was also highlighted by the report which then made reference to an outbreak in 2019.
“Typhoid fever is endemic in Samoa, with outbreaks occurring as recently as 2019 despite improvements in water supply and sanitation.”
The lack of capacity within the Government to frequently monitor water quality was also highlighted by the report as a major hurdle.
“Sampling, testing, and monitoring of water quality is a regular activity to meet targets in the Water for Life Performance Framework, although a lack of skilled technicians means that testing is limited to government laboratories only.”
In terms of Samoa’s regulatory regime with oversight over the monitoring and regulating of drinking water and water quality in Samoa, the report named the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture, Samoa Water Authority (S.W.A.) and the Independent Water Schemes Association.
Looking at Samoa’s performance in terms of its approach to the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector in the region, the A.D.B. report said it has been “sporadic” but systematic approaches have been gathering pace.
“There has been a sporadic approach to WASH activities across Samoa. However, more systematic approaches have been gathering pace with the installation of hand-washing facilities in schools and the review of drinking water safety plans across the country.”