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Water shortages have officials praying for rain

Date Posted: 2008-09-05

A shortage of typhoons and an all-too-brief rainy season have Okinawa officials fearful that water rationing may have to be implemented before year’s end.

The island’s ten water reservoirs are now at 64% of capacity, and that has officials worried. The water levels, says Okinawa Prefectural Enterprise Bureau, are at their lowest in more than a decade, and the prospects for their rising are somewhat bleak. Okinawa Prefectural Enterprise Bureau is charged with managing the reservoirs and the local water supply.

“We’re nearly 30% below the average level,” says Hiroki Higa, a veteran manager with the Bureau. He cites the 16-day rainy season this year as a major factor in the low water levels, but also points out that the lack of typhoons have also kept precious moisture away from his reservoirs. The normal rainy season runs 46 days, leaving Okinawa well below the power curve.

The Okinawa Meteorological Observatory says nothing abnormal is forecast for the coming couple of months, meaning only a normal amount of rain is expected. That, says Higa, isn’t enough to fix the problem. He says “water will have to be rationed” if rain doesn’t build up the reservoir levels, predicting the government could implement rationing rules by mid-November.

In the meantime, the Bureau and Okinawa Prefecture officials are taking steps to keep the reservoir water levels from plummeting. Voluntary water conservation measures are being urged by all businesses and citizens. Particular emphasis is being placed on high volume water users like car wash shops, where both the businesses and the customers are being urged to reduce the frequency of car services. Higa says the measures aren’t popular with citizens, but somberly adds that rationing will impact peoples’ lives more severely than simple water conservation steps.

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