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Night Time Water Rationing Begins on Monday Evening

Date Posted: 2004-03-25

A fast moving tropical storm spawned in the waters near the Philippines failed to track northward to Okinawa, dashing hopes of avoiding a start to water rationing.

The storm past well to the east southeast of Okinawa after a promising turn northward last weekend over the Philippines. It provided virtually no rain to Okinawa.

Officials say about 8” (200mm) rain is needed in a very short period in order to slow the drain on local reservoirs, which stand at 45% capacity now.

Rain out of the picture, water rationing begins Monday, March 29th. Initial phase rationing calls for a shutoff of all water daily between 10pm and 6am. Officials say they expect to slow water use by 3-10% with this conservation restriction. Twenty-nine of Okinawa’s 33 communities will have their water shut off nightly, as will most military bases and nearby Ie Island.

Kunigami, Ginoza, Igashi and Ogimi Villages all have their own water supplies.

The measures are being implemented by the Okinawa Drought Countermeasure Liaison Council, which held its fourth meeting last week to impose the water restriction. The move will impact 415,000 family residences, and about 1,196,000 people.

Drought Council officials say they’ll monitor the water situation continuously, adjusting the restrictions up or down depending on conditions. If it rains, the restrictions could be eased.

On the other hand, a continued lack of rain will result in stronger measures. Officials say the possibility exists that they’ll have to extend the water restriction to 24 hours on, 24 hours off if dry weather persists.

Some forecasters are predicting it will take a typhoon, still months away, to end the water shortages on Okinawa. Rationing was last in effect in 1994, when the nightly restriction ran for 28 days. A shortage in 1989 led to extended one day on, one day off water rationing.

The downward spiral of rains on Okinawa began in 2002, with last year’s annual rainfall the sixth lowest in the past 120 years. January rainfall was 54% lower than a year ago, and February’s rainfall figures were down 67% from a year ago. March is tracking well below normal. Many hopes are on the rainy season, forecast to begin about May 8th.

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