Despite being surrounded by the ocean and dotted with lakes and lagoons, the Micronesian island of Palau may soon run out of water.
The tiny island nation is completely drought-stricken, Agence France-Presse reports. The drought comes in the wake of El Niño-related warming of the Pacific Ocean and very limited rainfall, which has depleted drinking water stores across the country.
Anyone planning a vacation to Palau should come prepared with water bottles or canteens to store water when it is available. In Palau’s capital of Koror, the tap water is only being turned on for three hours a day. “We actually stock up on containers, like water bottles, small containers, coffee cans, anything that we can [use] we fill up with water,” one nervous resident told Australia’s ABC News. Bottled water is also becoming scarce with nervous residents stockpiling it as rumors circulate that Palau could run out of water altogether before the end of the month. Already, schools in some parts of the country are only open for half days because there is not enough drinking water for the students.
"We're still in the state of emergency, there's a sense of urgency to address the crisis," a government spokesman told Agence France-Presse.
Palau has reached out to Japan, Taiwan, and the U.S. for assistance in the form of either bulk delivery of drinking water or portable water filtration systems that could desalinate water from the ocean or from the country’s marine lakes.
Palau is not the only country to be in dire straits when it comes to water. The Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia have also declared states of emergency.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that El Niño and the warming trend that it brings, may be over by fall. Unfortunately, that’s probably not soon enough for residents of Palau.