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Cablegate: Eac Meeting: Acute Water Shortage -- Post Plans

VZCZCXRO0889
OO RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #0542/01 1871627
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 061627Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9993
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 FREETOWN 000542

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/FO, AF/W, AF/EX
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR DS/IP/AF, DS/CC, DS/IP/ITA
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR CA/OCS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AMGT AEMR ASEC CASC EAID SL
SUBJECT: EAC MEETING: ACUTE WATER SHORTAGE -- POST PLANS
CONSERVATION MEASURES AND ALTERNATE SUPPLY

Summary
-------
1. A July 5 Emergency Action Committee meeting discussed the
acute water shortage in Freetown and what actions post can
take to mitigate its effects. The Guma Valley reservoir is
seriously drawn down and municipal water rationing was
instituted last week. On July 4, the Government established
a water emergency task force which includes USAID. As
Embassy water supplies have been reduced by more than half,
the EAC established a list of conservation measures personnel
are to undertake. There is some potential for augmenting our
supply via purchasing from alternate water sources or hiring
a water purification machine. Added to other serious stress
in Sierra Leonean society, the water crisis is exacerbating
public discontent with the Government. End Summary.

EAC Meeting on Acute Water Shortage
-----------------------------------
2. On July 5, the DCM conducted an Emergency Action Committee
meeting on the acute water shortage in Freetown and the
Western Region of Sierra Leone. In the Western Region, rains
are reportedly further below average than elsewhere in the
country with Freetown receiving nine inches last month versus
29 inches in the same month last year. The Office of
National Security reported in a July 4 meeting, attended by
the USAID Country Chief, that within 20 days the water in the
Guma Valley reservoir, which supplies Freetown, will be
completely exhausted, and if no rainfall occurs in the coming
days, Guma would stop supplying water. The last few days
have seen heavy rains in and around Freetown, but forecasts
for further precipitation are uncertain.

3. At its peak, Guma supplies 23 million gallons per day, but
that has been reduced to 13 million gallons, which the ONS
says is inadequate to the city's needs. ONS also reports
that Guma's low level means that it is delivering water of
reduced quality that, while of "satisfactory" bacteriological
quality, is difficult to treat in terms of physical quality
(i.e., it is muddy).

4. The restricted water supply has made life more difficult
and uncomfortable for most people, but the EAC has received
no indications that there is as yet a widespread public
health threat, despite reports of scattered cases of cholera
which typically occur in the rainy season.

5. Investment in and upkeep of Freetown's water system have
not kept pace with the rate of urban growth. Furthermore,
leaking pipes have long been evident in many locations and
now with water in short supply locals are breaking into the
pipes to get access to the diminished flow, reducing
end-point deliveries and further degrading a feeble delivery
system.

Government Task Forces and Public Information
---------------------------------------------
6. On July 2, the GoSL Office of National Security activated
its situation room to provide early warning and ongoing
assessment of the water crisis. In its July 4 meeting, ONS
cited some cases of civil disorder as people struggled to get
water. Security of water delivery trucks has not been an
issue. ONS created a technical task force to investigate
alternate water sources, water rationing plans, on the spot
chlorinating of alternate sources, drilling emergency
boreholes, and availability of water delivery trucks.
Meanwhile, the GoSL plans to provide public information via
radio broadcasts. The ONS is looking at buying a water
purification machine (source of funds unspecified) and sought
the mission's good offices in examining a like machine at the
PAE-operated ECOWAS Freetown Peacekeeping Depot. (See para.
10.)

Water Supply to Mission Reduced
-------------------------------
7. In the chronic near total absence of pipe-borne water to
individual buildings, the mission routinely delivers trucked
water to all facilities and residences. In recent days, the
water authorities imposed rationing, reducing the mission's
normal six 1,000 gallon water truck loads per day to two
1,000 gallon loads. For the time being, residences and
facilities have water but there are too many variables for
the post to estimate how long water will continue to be
available.

Mission Conservation Efforts
----------------------------
8. The broadly representative EAC meeting established a
substantial list of water conservation measures to be

FREETOWN 00000542 002 OF 002


communicated immediately to mission personnel via an
Management Notice. They range from capturing rain water in
large containers, to strict discipline on potable water
consumption, restricting washing machine use and car washing,
and controlling the amount of water used by staff and guards.

Potential Water Supply and Delivery Improvements
--------------------------------------------- ---
9. The New Embassy Compound does not yet have a dedicated
water supply, but the small pipeline meant as a backup water
supply is scheduled for completion in two weeks. More
immediate help may be available directly from water sharing
with the nearby residential compound of IMATT, the UK
military training team. A private company in Lungi near the
Freetown airport is offering water for Le 25 per gallon
($0.008) while Guma Valley's price in Le 20. However, Lungi
is a minimum three hour road trip from Freetown.

10. Perhaps most importantly, the Freetown Depot (PAE) has a
reverse osmosis water purification machine that is capable of
delivering 23,000 gallons in a 12 hour day and can be trucked
to operate at a water source. PAE's estimated charge for
operating the purifier is $4-5,000 per month, but PAE said
they could operate it for a few days as a training exercise.
Finding and securing the rights to take water from a local
stream is another matter. In addition, the Freetown Depot
has water bladders for storage. If post were to source its
own water, security for the processing and transportation
equipment would be required.

11. In recent weeks the mission has depended on a PAE water
truck, but recently received the parts needed to repair our
own water truck and will complete the repairs ASAP. A second
military surplus water truck requires an engine overhaul
which also will be initiated immediately. In addition,
IMATT, the UK military training team, informs post that they
have a 5,000 liter water carrier to augment water haulage.

Comment
-------
12. Post like the rest of Freetown is dependent for water on
the dilapidated Guma system, and with rains arriving late and
looking to be below average, a water crisis has emerged.
Sierra Leoneans are stressed by scarce jobs, rising living
costs, lack of electricity, and recent fuel and transport
price increases. A struggle for the basic necessity of clean
water could easily create episodes of incivility and
potentially wider political upheaval, beyond the political
finger pointing over the shortcomings of the municipal water
system. We will continue to marshal our own resources and
work with the GoSL and other donors to face the water
shortage. In addition, so as to track the shortage, post
will monitor feedback from contacts, including the American
community, further increases in water prices, and the
potential for civil unrest surrounding obtaining water. End
Comment.
HULL

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