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Dry warm winter sets water rationing looming again

Date Posted: 2004-01-09

Water remains in short supply on Okinawa, despite programs in place by government officials. Just when most people in Okinawa started thinking that the water rationing was a thing of the past, officials at Okinawa Prefecture Water Rationing Policy Committee issued a warning that the current situation at reservoirs in the prefecture is third worst on record. Officials say that Okinawa got extraordinarily little rain last fall, especially the southern part of the island stayed dry.

The dams that are the backbone of the island’s water supply are currently filled to 65 percent of their capacity. That’s 20 percentage points less than at the same time a year ago. Forecasters don’t promise any improvement either. “Over several recent years weather patterns in the winter are becoming warmer and drier. We don’t expect any significant rainfall in January either,” a spokesman at Okinawa Meteorological Bureau said. He went on to point out that the weather during New Year holidays was the warmest in memory. “January should be cold, but our forecast shows that the warm weather will continue perhaps through the whole month. I wouldn’t call it normal,” the spokesman said.

An official at the Water Rationing Committee said the only solution they currently see is to appeal to citizens to start conserving water. “If people don’t start taking steps to conserve water now, we will run out much earlier than normal,” the official said.

Worst hit is Zamami Island, where the only reservoir is filled to only 25 percent of capacity. Water rationing is already in place, with supply limited to 10 hours a day. The rationing has continued since last summer, and local officials say that they may be forced to tighten the rationing further if there is no rain.

A spokesman at Okinawa Prefecture General Bureau Water Section said that the warm winter means a double punch. “Considering the time of the year, this is the third worst situation we ever had with our water reserves. Also, normally when the weather turns cold in January, people use less water. This year we have seen no reduction in the water usage, and the reason perhaps is the warm weather,” the official said.

“We can always pray to our gods for rain or make a rain dance, but I think a better way is for everyone to start saving water whenever and however they can,” the Water Rationing Policy Committee spokesman concluded.

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