Majuro reels from El Niño

Majuro residents of all ages crowd into the Payless water filling facility to buy drinking water. As the El Niño-caused drought has intensified in Majuro, all of the water making businesses have seen long lines of people waiting to fill gallon containers. Photo: Wilmer Joel.

The Guam-based US National Weather Service issued its weekly update on El Niño conditions throughout the US-affiliated Pacific Islands.

Under “Extreme Drought” heading, the US weather update stated: “Extreme Drought persists across islands of Yap State and the northern Marshall Islands. Below normal rainfall is expected for at least the next few weeks, likely a couple more months across these areas.

The US Weather Service update continued: “Drought conditions worsen for Yap Proper in Yap State, and for Wotje and nearby islands in the RMI; Severe Drought worsens to Extreme Drought.”

It concluded: “Drought conditions in the northern RMI and Yap state will continue to worsen.” 

As the El Niño-inspired drought worsens for Majuro and most islands and atolls of the country, the airport reservoir levels dropped to their lowest consistent levels in at least several years.

The reservoir dropped to under 20 million gallons last Monday, and continued declining to 19 million gallons by last Friday. This level of water is barely over half of the reservoir’s 36 million gallon storage capacity.

Majuro had an extremely low rainfall in March of just over 1.08 inches of rain, compared to the long-term average of over eight inches in March. Through the first eight days of April, there has been only trace rainfall, with the National Weather Service reporting 0.05 inches had been recorded through Monday: In other words, no rain.

This has resulted in the water catchments of many residents and businesses running dry. Lines at water locations such as Payless, EZ Price and Do It Best have been long and crowded, as residents who normally used catchment water for drinking water and other needs are now being forced to buy drinking water.

Many Majuro residents are really struggling with the water shortage. We know many people who have not had water in their home tanks for weeks.

Yet the government has no reverse osmosis (RO) water-making units for Majuro. All of the ROs, which are owned by IOM were dispatched to the outer islands, which also have serious water shortages.