The NZ creation bringing fresh water to the Marshall Islands

The NZ creation bringing fresh water to the Marshall Islands

A New Zealand company has developed a system that can simultaneously harvest sun and rainwater.

It's being used to provide fresh water and power to people in the Marshall Islands, which is one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change.

But it could be used right around the Pacific and in New Zealand too.

The Marshall Islands is on the frontline of climate change. As well as battling the rising sea, one of the biggest challenges is a lack of fresh water and electricity.

"The solar facility we've installed in Majuro is designed to do two things - firstly to harness solar energy panels, and secondly the way that we've designed it is to collect rainwater, which enables the rainwater to be fed directly into the reservoirs over which the solar panels sit," says Sunergise chief executive Paul Makumbe.

The reservoirs in Majuro are bordered by solar panels, which have special seals that catch fresh rainwater that then filters back down into the reservoirs.

"I think if you look at it this way it will save them probably about 636,000 litres of diesel per year, which directly goes to benefit the country because they're not importing that diesel," says Mr Makumbe.

"And then that'll save about 650 to 700 tonnes of carbon. So if you think about climate change issues, you're doing both - you're helping from an economic side but also from a climate change perspective."

The concept is the brainchild of Kiwi company Sunergise, which also has systems in place in Nauru and Fiji and says it could be replicated in communities that rely on tank water all over the Pacific and in New Zealand.

The use of solar energy is not unique, but the way it has been combined to collect freshwater is the first of its kind - and Mr Makumbe says innovation like that is vital.

"It helps them save in diesel, save their costs - costs which they can pass on to the people of Marshall Islands. So there will be a direct benefit to the people of the Marshall Islands."

Majuro has declared a state of disaster several times because of fresh water shortages, but this is one step to stop the islands from running dry.