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Australian water sector expertise changing lives in PNG

The Supurunda Water Supply Project area is located 30 km by road north-west of Goroka in Daulo District, which is part of Papua New Guinea's (PNG) Eastern Highlands Province. The project has supplied clean water to 3000 villagers in 10 villages for the first time.

The project was funded by Rotary International, with the Goroka Rotary Club responsible for project management and its secretary, Osivo Ombuano, as the Project Manager. Ombuano is a qualified school maths teacher.

Figure 1 – The Supurunda Spring Source Figure 1. The Supurunda Spring Source

The project is a spring-fed gravity system using construction materials purchased in PNG and constructed by villagers within a 6-week timeframe.

More than 7 km of poly pipe were trenched as part of the project and poly tanks were used for storage in the system.

Figure 2 – Supurunda Water Supply Schematic Figure 2. Supurunda Water Supply Schematic

The spring source has a confirmed flow of 2.25 L/second and bacteriological testing at Goroka University, chemical field testing, and chemical laboratory testing have confirmed it is a good quality water source (provided the source is protected from contamination).

The spring source can supply up to 65 L/person/day for the population of 3000 people.

The project cost US$68,000 (AUD$99,747) and was funded by Rotary International across a number of Rotary Districts, including Rotary Clubs in Australia and PNG.

Four competitive tenders ensured value for money for the supply of materials for the project.

Memorandum of understanding

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was developed between the five tribal groups in the water supply area and the owner of the water supply source to share the water between the villages. This MOU was used as the basis for developing a policy document which is registered with the local court and is enforceable under the law.

WASH program

A community water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) education program was rolled out prior to construction commencing. The WASH program will be run each year for school children.

Figure 3 – WASH Program Training Figure 3. WASH program training

Construction of the project

The project was constructed during September-October 2018 once materials were delivered by truck from Lae. All sand and gravel for the project (used for mixing concrete) was sourced from local creeks and rivers was carried in bilums (traditional handmade string bags) to stockpiles next to the construction sites.

Taps were provided to serve clusters of houses, school buildings, churches and health clinics.

Figure 4 – Stockpile of materials for the project Figure 4. Stockpile of materials for the project

Figure 5 – Construction Work Figure 5. Construction Work

Official opening ceremony

Ian Cameron from the Mitchelton Rotary Club and Wes Nichols from Toowong Rotary Club provided mentoring for the project delivery team as Project Directors. They visited PNG in February 2019 for the official opening of the Supurunda Water Supply Project and to audit it.

The water supply project was constructed and commissioned in accordance with the Rotary Global Grant project objectives. Highlights included:

  • All construction work was completed to a high standard.
  • The scope of the project expanded from 42 taps to 52 taps.
  • The European Union (EU) tank, which was sitting empty in a field, was connected to the Supurunda water supply system and the EU distribution network was repaired.

Figure 6 – Opening Ceremony Figure 6. Opening ceremony

About 2000 people attended the opening ceremony on 14 February 2019, with all of the 10 villages represented in traditional dress. The people were happy to have clean, fresh water in their villages.

Attendees said that this was the biggest celebration they’d held since independence in 1975. The speeches were made by local dignitaries and guest speaker, Peter Hasu, who was the newly appointed Principal of Benga High School. We can only imagine the preparation time put into this celebration with construction of a special grandstand, invitations sent, rehearsals, etc.

Eight pigs, provided by several of the villages, were cooked in a mumu (a ground oven, which is a traditional method of cooking large quantities of food for celebrations). At the end of the opening day, these were divided and presented to various parties in honour of their contribution to the project.

Pigs play a very important role in PNG culture and are a symbol of status. They are also used to resolve disputes and grievances. So, this was an extremely serious part of the celebration that included resolving some past grievances.

Water Supply Committee

The Supurunda Water Supply Committee met for the first time on 15 February 2019 and will oversee the operation and maintenance of the water supply scheme. A monthly levy on households will raise funds for the maintenance of the scheme. They are a very professional team and have everything in place to ensure the sustainability of the project.

About the author

Ian Cameron retired after 34 years' civil engineering experience principally in the field of water engineering. He has worked across projects in the water, transport, mining and energy sectors.

Cameron was a member of the Australian Water Association (AWA) from 1988 until 2017 and served on the AWA Queensland committee for 8 years (2000/01 to 2007/08).

In recognition of his expertise, in 1998 he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship for research into the biological removal of contaminants from water, and in 2011 was named the Queensland Water Professional of the Year in the AWA Queensland Water Awards.

Cameron has an ongoing interest in mentoring, volunteering and supporting water and sanitation projects in developing countries through Rotary International. He is currently providing mentoring along with his colleague Rotarian Wes Nichols for another potential village water supply project in Sausi, PNG.

To contact Ian, click here