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Water Rationing Making Debut First Time in Ten Years

Date Posted: 2004-03-19

Water restrictions on all but four of Okinawa’s main island are set to begin little more than a week from now, but even that date could be pushed up.

Water reservoirs are now down below 47.4% of capacity, and chances for rain are becoming very bleak. The Okinawa Drought Countermeasures Council, for the first time since early 1994, has directed water to be turned off every night from 10pm to 6am, starting March 29th.

Twenty-nine Okinawa towns and villages are impacted by the move, as well as all U.S. military installations. Only Higashi Village, Kunigami Village, Ogimi Village and Ginoza Village are exempt. They have their own water supplies.

Tourism officials are worried, and so are hotels and restaurants who’ll be impacted by the potential lack of fresh water, or steady water pressure. The hotel managers are worried about cancellations at the start of what’s predicted to be a very busy tourist season.

Swimming pool owners are also expressing concern. Their businesses use a lot of water, but without fresh water, they can’t be open and meet health and sanitation requirements as well as customer service needs.

Osamu Yamaguchi, Okinawa General Bureau’s Director, says people aren’t taking the water shortage seriously.

“Almost all houses have a tank on the roof,” he says, “and people think there’s not much crisis management because they have the tank.” He cautions “that’s wrong. People must really think tha the water in the tank will soon be gone, and that is a very serious problem.”

Yamaguchi warns things could get much worse, noting the April rain forecast is dismal at best. Forecasters, he says, aren’t optimistic there’ll be enough rainfall to forestall additional rationing measures.

The 1994 overnight restriction lasted more than a month. Five years before that, officials were forced to shut down the water lines for 24 hours at a time, every other day for nearly two months. Yamaguchi warns that this year’s situation is as severe as 1989 was, and says people are going to find themselves having to change their lifestyles.

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