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In 2007, surface water provided approximately 65 percent and groundwater 35 percent of the total water withdrawal in Samoa. Most of water withdrawal and supply are operated by the Samoa Water Authority (SWA), some by independent water schemes in villages. In 2007, SWA operated 38 surface water intakes used for public water supply, 36 in Upolu (including 4 springs) and 2 in Savai’i, and 40 borehole supplies, 20 each on Savai’i and Upolu. In addition, there are 19 independent water schemes in Upolu and 5 in Savai’i. Water supply in northern, eastern and southern Upolu and eastern Savai’i is from surface water intakes, whereas that for western Upolu and rest of Savaii is from groundwater.
The urban water supply for greater Apia is supplied almost entirely from surface water intakes from the Vaisigano and Fuluasou rivers. Commercial and industrial uses are limited in Samoa, and rely for the most part on the urban water supply. The largest commercial activities are the brewery, coconut factory and approximately seven bottled water companies. Tourism in Samoa is growing and contributes to heavy water demand and high wastewater production, thus putting pressure on the water availability. Tourism relies also on the urban water supply (SOPAC, 2007; SPC, 2012).
SWA has responsibility for providing water services in rural areas, though coverage is not widespread and infrastructure is poorly maintained and users are reluctant to pay for the low levels of service they receive. Outside of these areas water is accessed through village operated and independent schemes or small household scale sources. In rural communities where there is no access to piped water, the most common water supply is untreated groundwater and surface water sources where available (ISF-UTS, 2011).
There is hardly any irrigated agriculture in Samoa, almost all is rainfed. However the Penina golf course has an irrigation system, fed from a borehole, but no information on water withdrawal for this is available. Surface water is also used for power generation (SOPAC, 2007).
Rainwater catchment systems are less common in Samoa than in the other Pacific Island countries, and some communities have reportedly refused to use subsidized rainwater tanks citing to dislike the taste. Rainwater harvesting is only practiced widely in the Falealupo Peninsula and in otherwise isolated and rural households (SOPAC, 2007; IFS-UTS, 2011).
Water shortages are reported during the dry season, especially during extended dry periods associated with the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), in the Apia area on Upolu served by surface water intakes and in the Falealupo Peninsula on Savai’i where groundwater is often brackish saline and the population relies upon rainwater harvesting (SOPAC, 2007). There is an increase in the development of groundwater resources to supplement surface water supplies in the country. SWA, some major hotels, and beverages and water bottling companies, as well as other large establishments have constructed their own production boreholes to provide reliable water services, especially during the dry season when river and stream flows are low (MNRE, 2013).