Okinawa records its driest ever winter
March 15, 2009
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Okinawa officials are keeping a close eye on water levels after the island recorded its driest winter since 1897, the first year such records were kept.
From December through February, Naha recorded 3.6 inches of rain, or 26 percent of the annual average of the past 112 years, said Hisao Uezu, weather forecaster at the Okinawa Meteorological Observatory.
Northern areas where major reservoirs are were no better, Uezu said. In Nago, 3.9 inches of rain was recorded, the lowest since 1973, the year the region began tracking precipitation.
Recent rain has helped ease some fears of a water shortage, at least for now, said a spokesman for the Water Supply Management Office at the Okinawa Prefectural Enterprise Bureau.
"Rainfall earlier this month made us breathe a sigh of relief," said Yutaka Nakamura.
The precipitation during the first 10 days of March helped to raise the water level average at the island’s 10 reservoirs to 56.6 percent as of Friday, he said.
According to the weather observatory, 5.1 inches of rain were recorded in Naha during that time, nearly triple the amount of an average year in the same period.
Meanwhile, U.S. military officials are joining local officials in monitoring water levels and coordinating efforts with them, said Air Force Lt. Col. David Wilder, 718th Civil Engineer Squadron commander at Kadena Air Base.
"Due to the unseasonal precipitation, we have not been asked nor started water conservation efforts for this calendar year yet," Wilder said.
Nakamura, however, remains cautious.
If the rains don’t continue in the coming weeks, Nakamura said, the water level could drop below 50 percent.
"That’s when we need to step up our water conservation campaign," he said.
Although rainfall in March and April is expected to be within the normal range, May is expected to be drier than normal, according to the observatory’s three-month weather forecast report.
If the current climate continues, Okinawa might face water restrictions, Uezu said.
"We only hope that the rainy season this year brings us good rainfall."
Stars and Stripes reporter Cindy Fisher contributed to this story.