Tuvalu is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia, and an independent nation since it achieved independence from Great Britain on October 1, 1978. Tuvalu is nine islands: four reef islands and five atolls. Its population of a little more than ten thousand makes it the third-least populous sovereign state in the world, with only Vatican City in Rome and Nauru [a Pacific island in Micronesia] having fewer inhabitants. Its size of ten square miles [twenty-six square kilometers] makes it the fourth smallest country in the world, larger only than the Vatican City, Monaco and Nauru. To put this into perspective, that is less than half the size of Manhattan Island.
Recently, Tuvalu has been hit by a severe drought, so severe in fact that the island nation has only a few more days of water left before it is completely dry of potable drinking water. As a result, Tuvalu’s closest large neighbors, New Zealand and Australia, have sent Air Force planes to organize the movement of a large desalination plant to make fresh potable water.
There are currently two desalination plants operating in Tuvalu’s capital and they are producing a combined volume of 43,000 liters a day. Unfortunately the minimum requirement for the residents is 79,500 liters a day.
This drought has much to do with changing weather patterns as a result of global climate change. Rain supplies much of the water for Tuvalu and it has been well below average for the past six months because of a severe La Nina weather pattern. In addition, La Nina has increased the strength of eastern trade winds across the Pacific, pushing rainfall to the west and away from the islands, resulting in an even more severe drought.
While the appearance of La Nina in and of itself is a cyclical occurrence, this weather pattern, combined with increases in the global temperature have conspired against Tuvalu such that it has not had any rain for more than six months, and there is no drinkable groundwater because rising sea levels have contaminated it.