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Water levels at Okinawa reservoirs see rebound

By DAVID ALLEN AND CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 18, 2009

CHATAN, Okinawa — Wet enough?

More rain has fallen on Okinawa in the past week than the annual average for June, easing fears that strict water conservation measures might have to be enacted.

At the end of May the water level at the island’s 10 reservoirs was at 45.5 percent, more than 30 percent below an average year. But some 10.6 inches of rain dumped since last Thursday in northern Okinawa, where most of the reservoirs are, boosted levels to 61.3 percent of capacity, according to Okinawa Meteorological Observatory.

And if it felt even wetter in central Okinawa, where many of the U.S. military bases are located, that’s because nearly 13 inches of rain drenched that part of the island in the past week.

"It has given us a sigh of relief, for now," said Yutaka Nakamura, a member of the Okinawa prefectural Enterprise Bureau and the Okinawa Drought Countermeasure Council.

However, the island remains drier than usual, he warned. "Water levels at reservoirs still remain 30 percent lower than an average year," Nakamura said Tuesday. "We are not yet in a safe zone."

The council hit the streets earlier this month, distributing fliers to urge the public to conserve water.

The council asked people to cut their water use 5 percent by taking simple measures such as turning off faucets while brushing teeth or washing dishes.

Rainfall during the past week has exceeded the annual average for the entire month of June by 50 percent, said Toshiaki Tamashiro, chief weather forecaster at the observatory.

"We expect this rain spell will last at least until Friday," he said. Since the start of Okinawa’s rainy season on May 18, some 19.6 inches has fallen in the central region and 16.6 inches in the north.

Total precipitation for May and June in an average year in the central region is 17.5 inches. The annual average for the same period in the north is 18.3 inches, according to the observatory’s statistics.

That means the rainy season is providing the island with the normal amount of rain, but it is offset by an abnormally dry winter, which has kept reservoir levels down, Tamashiro said.

"It was like we used lots of our savings while there was no income," he said.

The rainy season is predicted to end next week, Tamashiro said.

Rainfall in July is expected to be within the normal range, but August is expected to be drier than normal, according to the obervatory’s three-month weather forecast.

At present, military officials on Okinawa are instructing servicemembers and their families to save water by limiting showers and restricting laundry and dish washing to full loads. Also, there is a ban on watering lawns and washing cars in housing areas.