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Urban areas in Pacific island countries (PICs) use varied sources of water and have very diverse water supply challenges. They share, however, common, concerns particularly over the adequacy and continuity of supply, water quality, sustainability of supply systems, protection of water sources, control of increasing demand, and reduction of water losses. The issues are complex and are not generally amenable to simple solutions. While some urban water problems in PICs are similar to those in developing countries elsewhere, others are unique to the Pacific. These require an understanding of the geographic, climatic, hydrologic, social, cultural, and economic contexts. A central premise here is that improvements in water supply and quality in urban centres in PICs require robust but locally appropriate institutions and enhanced capacities while maintaining or improving the integrity of water sources and dependent ecosystems.
Here we discuss a broad range of interacting factors: water governance, assessment and monitoring, management and protection of water sources, management of demand and losses, capacity building, empowerment of communities, and coping with climate variability and climate change. These together with limited capacities and resources, specific cultural contexts and local institutions, and the diverse and dispersed nature of island communities, require special attention by policy makers and practioners. The strengths of local communities and extended families, particularly their natural resilience to change, provide a good basis for implementing water reforms and for adapting to development pressures, climate variability, and climate change – provided the interaction between subsistence traditions and customary rights on the one hand and urban modes and values on the other can be managed.
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