6 Jan 2017

Public told to stop swimming in Cook Islands drinking water

3:21 pm on 6 January 2017

Tourists and locals swimming in drinking water intakes in the Cook Islands has prompted serious heath concerns.

Pipes ready for installation in Rarotonga, Cook Islands as part of Te Mato Vai project to upgrade water supply

Pipes of te Mato Vai project which will deliver a high standard new water network, including improved storage capacity and new ring mains to Rarotonga. Photo: Supplied

Cook Islands News reports the Infrastructure Water Works Division has received a number of complaints about people swimming in restricted areas which store drinking water on Rarotonga.

The most recent complaint involved two tourists swimming in the Takuvaine water intake area.

The division manager, Wilson Rani, said signs clearly indicate swimming is banned and he is asking the public, including tourists and locals, to stop swimming at water intakes.

He said swimming could contaminate the water and cause serious health problems for people drinking it.

The treatment of water supply intakes on Rarotonga cannot remove bacterial contamination Mr Rani said and people should boil their water.

The Infrastructure Cook Islands website said Rarotonga does not have chemical water treatment and "coarse gravel filters remove most solids and organic matter such as soil, leaves from the water".

It said "the remote location of the intakes makes it difficult to carry out regular cleaning processes and wild animals such as cows, goats, pigs which are scattered throughout the catchment areas have easy access to the intake areas and contamination from faecal wastes is an on-going problem."

Under Cook Islands law, people found swimming in protected water catchments can face heavy penalties.