Safe and secure water — Tonga

Making communities stronger in the face of climate change is at the heart of efforts to improve water and sanitation systems in Tonga.
Water tanks in production in Tonga.
Water tanks in production in April 2022 at M&J Water Tank Company in Tonga – a batch of 159 tanks destined for Niuafo’ou Island where communities depend on rainwater harvesting. Photo: New Zealand High Commission, Nuku’alofa

Access to safe water is a growing challenge for Pacific countries like Tonga, where climate change is increasing water supply risks for communities that rely on rainwater or fragile groundwater.

Since early 2022, Aotearoa New Zealand has been supporting national projects led by the Government of Tonga, to strengthen water security. This has included initial funding for 1500 water tanks and 400 septic tanks, and further funding in June 2023 to build the resilience of Tonga’s water management for vulnerable households and communities across the island group.

A total of NZ$17.8 million funding from Aotearoa New Zealand over three years will support Tonga’s climate change responses relating to water, sanitation and hygiene.

Getting safe water to vulnerable households

Row of water tanks.

Communities and households who are more vulnerable are the first focus of Tonga’s National Water Tank Project.

There is need across all the island groups. While water sources differ between Tonga’s islands, all are threatened by climate change, which increases the risks of drought, saltwater intrusion into groundwater, and other forms of contamination.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s contribution, alongside funding from the Tindall Foundation, has already supported delivery of 169 water tanks to Niuafo’ou, in Tonga’s northernmost island group – with the remainder of the initial consignment of water tanks to be delivered across Tongatapu from mid-2023.

Matthew Howell, New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Tonga, says the aim is to support communities with infrastructure and skills to adapt to the challenges that climate change is bringing. 

“The focus of the National Water Tank Project is on households which are more vulnerable, for example the elderly or where there is a disabled family member.

Government representative from Esia village Mr Solomone Vaikel.
Government representative from Esia village, Mr Solomone Vaikeli, welcoming the rollout of tanks for Niuafo’ou families’ water supply.

“The volcanic ash and tsunami caused by the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption in January 2022 damaged community water infrastructure, making some households more vulnerable.”

As well as building resilience within communities through the water security projects, Mr Howell said Aotearoa New Zealand is supporting Tonga’s growing capacity for generating locally-owned solutions to climate challenges.

Our partners

Aotearoa New Zealand’s contribution of NZ$17.8 million for water security is made through Tonga’s Climate Change Fund, as part of our climate finance commitment delivered through the International Development Cooperation programme. 

The Tonga Climate Change Fund, the first of its kind in the Pacific, is administered by the Tongan Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications.

See Tonga’s reports: The rollout of tanks to Nuiafo'ou Island in June(external link), and their ceremonial launch in July 2022(external link).

Watch Tonga’s story of building climate resilience through water management, as first episode of our series of 'Stories from across the moana'.


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