Piloting climate change adaptation in water resources management in Hihifo District, Tongatapu

  • Tonga
  • Pacific

ENTRY DATE: 09.03.2012 | LAST UPDATE: 09.03.2012


  • Community Level


  • Rural


  • Project Implementation


  • Water Resources Management


Description of Intervention

According to a vulnerability and adaptation assessment during the initial national communication, vulnerable sectors in Tonga include water resources, forestry and agriculture, coastal areas and resources, fisheries and human health. The Hihifo District (from Fo’ui to Ha’atafu) is the demonstration site for this project. This district consists of six villages situated 15 kilometres south west of Nuku’alofa on the main island of Tongatapu. The villages are dependent mainly on underground water sources, supplemented by rainwater. The communities in the Hihifo District suffer from drought, and impacts of saltwater intrusions affecting groundwater resources.

Problems to be Addressed

The project focuses on enhancing, and where necessary, developing water infrastructure for six communities of the Hihifo district. Climate scenarios project a decrease in average rainfall by approximately 10.9% by 2050, which would lead to a 30% reduction in average annual recharge from 457mm to 317mm. Prolonged dry periods would decrease water supply for use in rural areas and outer islands, while a reduction in recharge to groundwater would mean a reduction in drinking water in rural areas and outer islands.


To increase the resilience of the water resources management sector, and to enhance the capacity of villages/communities to adapt to climate change and sea level rise. This project will also focus on improving and extending the existing water distribution system.


• To incorporate climate change risks into water resource management legislation, policies and plans;
• To develop a climate Change Adaptation Action Plan for Water Resource Management;
• To provide water tanks for each of the six villages;
• To install water production pumps (diesel/solar);
• To install water quality monitoring equipment;
• To install water meters for all households;
• To have roadside access to the bore holes and pumps;
• To expand rainwater collection schemes;
• To protect groundwater from contamination from seawater intrusion or biological and/or chemical pollution;
• To create an effective land and water management system;
• To initiate non-polluting sanitation systems such as composting toilets and dry sanitation systems to protect fresh groundwater from leaking sewerage structures and produce fertiliser; and
• To have in place effective coastal management and protection measures.

How it fits into the EbA concept

The management of water catchments to maintain water quality and maximise groundwater recharge will minimise climate change impacts on water resources and provide immediate human benefits in areas that already suffer seasonal shortages. These initiatives will promote water conservation and raise awareness about the importance of water resource management for long-term use. The introduction of policies to extract freshwater from coastal aquifers only when necessary will reduce the vulnerability of coastal communities and reduce the need to replace infrastructure if salt water intrusion occurs. The installation of water tanks will reduce the vulnerability of communities in times of water crisis.