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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Water rationing will be postponed at least until next month, meaning base and city taps will continue to flow through the holidays, the U.S. Navy and Sasebo city officials said Monday.

The city government feared cutting water could sour Christmas and New Year’s celebrations and hurt the local economy, the Sasebo Waterworks Bureau said.

Meanwhile, some rainfall and water-conservation efforts in recent weeks inched up the water supply and made it possible to suspend the rationing plans, according to the bureau.

The Navy will “mirror” the city and begin rationing water when and if Sasebo officials decide it is necessary, base spokesman Charles Howard said Monday.

Also, the base, which is Sasebo’s largest single consumer of water, will begin purifying seawater this week to reduce its reliance on the city’s supply.

About 100,000 households faced 28-hour periods without water beginning Dec. 15. The naval base planned to follow suit with its own rationing plan Dec. 17.

“It was [the] mayor’s decision to suspend the rationing during the holiday season after he considered impacts on citizens and the city’s economy,” said Sadayoshi Emoto of the city’s Waterworks Bureau.

Despite some recent rain, the water supply remains low, and the public should continue voluntary conservation efforts during the holidays, city Assemblyman Yosei Matsumoto said.

The overnight rainfall last weekend raised water levels at reservoirs by 0.4 percent — leaving the city’s supply at an alarmingly low level of 54.1 percent, Emoto said.

The city typically begins rationing water when reservoirs fall below 55 percent of capacity, he said.

“The increase was not very significant, but the rain also increased water volume in rivers, enabling us to take more water from rivers,” he said.

Efforts made by citizens to save water also contributed to the postponement of rationing, Emoto said.

The base reduced its water use by 34 percent from October to November by cutting water pressure, eliminating car washes and installing water-saving shower heads, the Navy announced Monday.

The USS Essex is slated to pull into port Tuesday with six reverse-osmosis water production units and 17 U.S. Marines to operate the devices, a Navy press release said Monday.

The devices will be set up in the Hario housing area and the main base and will turn 1,200 to 1,500 gallons of seawater into potable water each hour.


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