Helping to provide safe drinking water to one of the world’s most isolated countries

1 July 2021

From remote mine sites to underground tunnels beneath busy cities, at Advanced Piping Systems, we’re used to supplying our polyethylene (PE) pipe and fittings to some unique and challenging locations across Australia.

When tasked with supplying poly pipe and other building materials to one of the world’s most isolated countries — Kiribati — Advanced Piping Systems was up for the challenge.

The Kiribati Adaptation Program

Spread across 3.5 million square kilometres in the middle of the Central Pacific Ocean, Kiribati is a country made up of 33 coral atolls. Most of Kiribati’s islands are just a few hundred meters wide, with an average height of 1.8 meters above sea level.

Because of this, Kiribati has become one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to any change in sea levels.

When storms in the Pacific Ocean occur, tides can also wash over entire islands, causing flooding and contaminating drinking water supplies for weeks or even months, making people — especially children — sick.

In addition, long periods of drought, usually during La Nina years, can mean communities have to ration water use, impacting their wellbeing and agriculture.

To help provide safe drinking water and strengthen coastal protection in the face of drought, storm surges and rising seas, the World Bank established the Kiribati Adaptation Program (KAP).

In 2017, Advanced Piping Systems was contracted to help complete Phase III of the program, supplying materials to improve water resource use, manage existing systems, and increase yield from rainwater harvesting.

Supplying critical infrastructure

In a previous phase of KAP, rainwater harvesting systems were piloted, as well as solar-powered water pumps, to ensure residents could access clean drinking water close to their homes.

Positively received by the community, the pumps and rainwater harvesting systems were further rolled-out across other parts of the island, with Advanced Piping Systems contracted to supply critical infrastructure.

To ship materials to Kiribati — which can cost as much as $15,000 to freight one container — the team had to be creative in order to deliver the materials on budget, and on time.

“Due to the high shipping costs, effectively what we said to them was, we’ll do all of it for you,” explains Stuart.

“Because we were flexible and we listened to what they needed, we managed to achieve what seemed impossible: sourcing and packaging everything they needed — not just poly pipe — combined into mixed containers, saving them from having to do multiple LCL shipments from different sources.

“As well as the small diameter pipe, we sent taps, water metres, materials for lining the inside of their rainwater tanks, ladders, and covers for the tanks so they could service them,” he said.

But it didn’t end there. Advanced Piping Systems went outside its core business limits to also supply the wheelbarrows, cement mixers, generators, timber and tools required for the whole project.

“We were getting these massive portable concrete mixers, packing them into the container and then filling the bowl on the mixer up with fittings!

“We really jammed a lot in, saving the program a significant amount of money,” said Stuart.

With the rainwater harvesting systems up and running, residents of Kiribati now have easy access to clean water, and the restored storage tanks means a larger pool is available against times of drought.

“The company took pride in what we could do for our friends in Kiribati” said Stuart. “A fresh water supply to each home is so essential for a quality of life; something we take totally for granted here in Australia.

We went out of our way to provide them with everything they needed for the project, right down to the concrete mixers and bags of cement.”

Due to the success of their involvement in the KAP (Phase III) program and the strong relationships which have been formed, Advanced Piping Systems have since provided further critical pipe and building supplies to Kiribati, for the Nippon Causeway project.