Drought conditions in parts of the Micronesia region have been upgraded from severe to extreme.

The U.S Drought Monitor has upgraded drought conditions in the Federated States of Micronesia from severe to extreme, on the island state of Yap. Also facing extreme drought is the atoll of Wotje, in the Marshall Islands.

Assessment teams and residents from Yap state are reporting agricultural strain, with taro patches drying up, coconuts drying out, and crops yellowing.

Also under severe drought are Guam, Palau and parts of the Commonwealth of the Marianas.

Landon Aydlett, meteorologist for Guam’s National Weather Service, said that this was expected.

“The caveat with this dry season drought period of El Nino, is we’re not expecting it to be quite as robust or long-lasting,” Aydlett said.

Several state disaster coordinating offices, including USAID and the International Organisation for Migration, are assisting with ongoing efforts to get relief supplies to islands in need.

Meanwhile, the National Emergency Committee (NEC) has placed Palau under a “Water Shortage WATCH” starting 26 March 2024.

This alert comes as water levels at the Ngerimel and Ngerikiil reservoirs in Airai have significantly declined due to a lack of rainfall and increased water consumption.

According to projections from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center and various climate models, El Niño conditions are expected to persist from March through May 2024, potentially leading to prolonged dry spells. As a result, water sources throughout the country are anticipated to dwindle.

Historical data from the Palau National Weather Service Office indicates that February, March, and April typically see minimal rainfall, making them normal dry months for Palau. However, this dry season could extend into May and beyond.

Forecasts suggest that the rainfall from April to May 2024 may not be sufficient to maintain optimal water levels in Palau’s main reservoirs and other key water sources across all states.

Additionally, neighbouring countries in the North Pacific region are currently facing drought conditions, pointing to similar challenges for Palau.

Water conservation is crucial to address water scarcity in light of the situation. The NEC is calling on the public, including both public and private sectors, to practice conservation by reducing water usage to essential needs in line with guidance from the Palau Public Utilities Corporation.

Furthermore, based on advice from the Palau Public Utilities Corporation, non-essential water activities like car washing and water blasting are strongly discouraged until further notice. The public is urged to conserve water whenever possible.

The Palau Public Utilities Corporation (PPUC) will continue to monitor water levels and provide updates to the NEC and the general public as necessary.