1. The project will address factors which result in the high incidence of waterborne disease on Ebeye, an island within Kwajalein Atoll. Ebeye has an area of approximately 31 hectares and a population of more than 9,600, (population density is about 31,000 persons per km2). The project will improve access to safe water and sanitation and promote behavioral change to improve hygiene standards.
2. High incidence of waterborne disease. Ebeye has a high incidence of waterborne disease. The number of cases of waterborne disease, primarily gastroenteritis, recorded by Ebeye Hospital since 2001 averages 1,182 cases per year. The high incidence of waterborne disease is attributed to: (i) limited access to safe water; (ii) ineffective hygiene behaviors, particularly among children; and (iii) a dilapidated sanitation system.
3. Limited sources of fresh water. The primary sources of potable water for households on Ebeye are the public fresh water supply (84%) provided by the Kwajalein Atoll Joint Utilities Resources (KAJUR) Inc.; household rainwater tanks (15%); and bottled water (1%). Sources of potable water are household rainwater harvesting and a reverse osmosis desalination (RO) plant operated by KAJUR. Groundwater reserves are minimal and there are no freshwater streams. The Ebeye RO plant, commissioned in 2001, uses outdated RO technology and is energy inefficient and requires about 3 times more energy to produce the equivalent volume of potable water than modern RO plants. Currently, the RO plant produces 110,000 gallons potentially providing 11.4 gallons (44 liters) per day to every person. However, the potable water available from fresh water supply system is substantially less due to leakage from the fresh water supply network and uncontrolled overflows from water reservoirs. Rainwater harvesting is being increasingly utilized by households to increase access to potable water but is not secure due to seasonal rainfall patterns and more frequent droughts. In drought years water stored in rainwater tanks is rapidly consumed and rainwater tanks may remain unreplenished for long periods. However, climate projections for the Marshall Islands indicate higher air and sea temperatures and higher rainfall and rainwater harvesting will become an increasingly important supplementary household freshwater.
4. Need to enhance awareness on hygiene and water related issues. Public awareness and education on water related issues is low and awareness and education activities and outreach are limited. A long-duration hygiene and water awareness campaign is needed to foster sustained behavioral change required for improved hygiene and reduced incidence of waterborne diseases. Campaigns need to focus on children, which comprise 45% of Ebeye's population, through programs delivered in school and to womens groups.
5. Dilapidated sewer system. The Ebeye saltwater sewerage system has progressively failed due to lack of maintenance since it's commissioning in 1967. Salt water for the operation of the sewer system is sourced from 2 deep wells and is pumped through a dedicated saltwater reticulation network to most areas on Ebeye. Pressure in the saltwater reticulation mains is very low and is insufficient for operation of fire hydrants. The sewage treatment plant has not operated since 2001 and untreated sewage is discharged into the lagoon. The sewage pump stations have limited pumping capacity and frequently fail and there is significant infiltration of seawater into the sewers. The high seawater infiltration and pump failures often result in sewage overflows from manholes and pump stations into the streets. Overflows from the sewerage network and discharge of raw sewage to the lagoon present a serious health hazard. Water quality testing by the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that the marine water quality at several locations on Ebeye's lagoon foreshore does not meet EPA standards due to sewage contamination.
6. Unsustainable water and sewerage services. Over the past 6 fiscal years, KAJUR has recorded operating losses of $2 million or more. Electricity services account for about 88% of KAJUR's operating revenue. Water supply and sewerage services are provided by KAJUR free of charge. KAJUR has financed the gap between expenditure and operating revenues through grants from the United States. KAJUR has developed a reform strategy to improve its financial sustainability through improved operational efficiency and increased revenues. The reform strategy includes plans to install consumer meters and the introduction of volumetric-based charges for water supply and sewerage services. However, tariff policies have yet to be developed. Asset planning and improved management is essential for KAJUR to become financially and technically sustainable.
7. The project is consistent with RMI's strategic development strategy, Vision 2018, for improved hygiene and sanitation and reliable and affordable water and sanitation infrastructure. The project is included in RMI Country Operations Business Plan 2013 2015 which includes a strategic focus of infrastructure development. The project is aligned with: (i) ADB's Strategy 2020 to contribute to improved public health through water and sanitation investments; (ii) ADB's Approach to Assisting the Pacific (2010 2014) to improve the supply and delivery of water and sanitation services; and (iii) ADB's Water Policy and Water Operational Plan 2011 2020 to increase efficiency and productivity in the delivery of water services and increase investments in sanitation and wastewater management.