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Asian Development Bank

100 Climate Actions from Cities in Asia and the Pacific


Kiribati is installing the largest desalination plants in the Pacific Islands as part of a larger package of measures supported by ADB aimed at tackling the impacts of climate change on freshwater supplies in South Tarawa.

South Tarawa, the capital city, is installing two new desalination plants with energy offset by solar power as part of a larger program to improve access to drinking water and reduce waterborne diseases, especially in times of drought or during natural disasters.

There are just two freshwater sources in South Tarawa that have a combined output of around 2,000 cubic meters (m3) per day. Combined with leakages from the existing water supply network, it is estimated that just 11 liters (l) per person per day are available to the population, well below the 50 l level that is recommended to meet minimum health requirements.



The seven-year program will start by rehabilitating the existing water supply infrastructure to reduce water leakages, followed by the installation of two desalination plants which will have their energy consumption offset by a 2.5 megawatt photovoltaic solar system.

Other outputs within the program will focus on building the capacity of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Sustainable Energy and Public Utilities Board to better manage water supply infrastructure.

The project cost is estimated at $62 million, with financing provided in part by ADB, the World Bank, and the Green Climate Fund.

The new desalination plants will be the largest constructed in the Pacific Islands (photo by ADB).

The Challenge

Overcrowding and inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene coverage are major issues in highly urbanized South Tarawa. Further exacerbating the situation, its main freshwater sources are threatened by climate-induced inundation and prolonged droughts.


Health Access to a safe and climate resilient water supply will eliminate the currently high dependence on contaminated water and reduce waterborne diseases.

Economic The plant’s use of solar energy will result in cost savings, and households that no longer need to boil water prior to consumption will save time and fuel.

Social An awareness-building campaign about water, sanitation, and hygiene practices will include gender-sensitive communication and outreach.