Supporting climate change adaptation for the Samoan water sector

At a glance

2012-07-01 to 2015-06-01
Completed programmes
Min. of Natural Resources and Environment, Min. of Finance
Total budget
6,00 M€
GCCA priority area(s)

Approximately 70% of Samoa’s population and infrastructure are located in low-lying coastal areas, with 50% of the population living in the Apia urban area and northwest Upolu. Projected sea level rise could exacerbate coastal erosion, loss of land and property and dislocation of the island settlements. Coastal floods are also likely to become more frequent and severe. In the early 1990s, tropical cyclones Ofa and Val caused damage with costs estimates amounting to approximately four times the gross domestic product. Environmental sustainability and disaster risk reduction are among the priorities of the Strategy for the Development of Samoa 2008-2012, which identifies climate change adaptation as a cross-cutting issue.

Samoa has developed a framework of strategies, plans and governance structures that are considered best practice in the Pacific region. Climate change adaptation is reflected as a priority in many high-level plans and strategies. Samoa’s vision is to improve quality of life for all its inhabitants through seven key development priorities, including environmental sustainability and disaster risk reduction.

GCCA's action programme
Geographical scope
Country groups
Initial GCCA/GCCA+ contribution
3,000,000.00 €

Overall objective

Support the Samoan development strategy by integrating climate change into national and sector development planning, budgeting and implementation.

Objectifs spécifiques
  • Strengthen the integration of climate change adaptation into the updated Water for Life sector plan 2012-2016.
  • Mitigate the impact of flooding in central Apia through the rehabilitation of priority drainage infrastructure and the introduction of an effective maintenance programme.


An updated Water for Life sector plan is produced that effectively integrates climate change adaptation measures in all phases of the programme cycle.

To this effect, participatory workshops are to be organised and inputs provided by technical experts to advise on climate change options.

All drainage infrastructure in the greater Apia area is unblocked and rehabilitated. An effective asset management system is established, and a maintenance plan is implemented for drainage infrastructure under the Land Transport Authority.

This involves contracting out, and supervising, the rehabilitation and clearance of drains in the greater Apia area. The results of this work are to be included in an asset management database, to be used in turn for designing a comprehensive maintenance plan.

Priority drainage infrastructure for storm water flows is rebuilt and upgraded, based on climate change projections, in the flood-prone central business area of Apia.

This involves the preparation of detailed designs for the reconstruction and upgrading of priority drainage infrastructure identified in the Apia Master Plan for Water, Sanitation and Drainage (2010), with a focus on the central business area of Apia, taking into account the latest climate change projections for Samoa.

  • The Water for Life sector plan 2012-2016 has been adopted. It puts more emphasis on improved watershed management.
  • A total of 6 watershed management plans have been finalised and endorsed by the Joint Water Sector Steering Committee and the Cabinet Development Committee.  These plans will guide sustainable watershed management initiatives for Aufaga, Loimata o Apaula, Fuluasou, Tafitoala, Vaipouli (in Savai’i) and Togitogiga. 
  • Ongoing watershed rehabilitation programmes continue to focus on replanting in identified critical and prioritised watershed areas, which include the Apia catchments, Togitogiga, Vaipouli, Loimata o Apaula. All rehabilitation programmes involve community participation. Community nurseries managed by the communities themselves have been established to promote community ownership and the sustainability of rehabilitation initiatives.
  • Community engagement programmes such as annual river clean-up campaigns involving affected communities and nearby schools, community seminars, school educational programmes and regular radio talk back shows are taking place; they are spearheaded by the Water Resources Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, in collaboration with relevant sector implementing agencies.
  • The government has secured 32 acres (13 hectares) of land at Malololelei within the Fuluasou catchment in a bid to reserve critical watershed areas and to protect the nearby Fuluasou water supply intake which currently serves 6 450 households. Further efforts to secure more critical areas for reserve continue with the government also looking at securing another 50 acres (20 ha) of land at Malololelei and parts of the Tapatapao and Tiavi critical watershed areas as natural reserves.
  • Five research papers have been published under the water and sanitation sector’s research initiative.

Challenges and lessons learned
  • There are clear benefits from using integrated approaches to address both climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Integrated water resource management (IWRM) at the catchment/watershed level is crucial in building the country’s resilience to potential impacts of climate variability and change. Flood mitigation efforts and initiatives are part and parcel of the IWRM planning process, and watershed management strategies are an integral part of flood management. Regulating development activities in the upper watersheds and rehabilitation (replanting) of the Apia watershed have greatly assisted efforts toward flood mitigation in the urban area.
  • Strengthening public-private partnerships for the routine maintenance of the urban drainage network has resulted in greatly improved performance of the network. Community participation and active involvement in drainage maintenance and rehabilitation programmes is also crucial for sustainability.
  • To sustain the improvements in the performance of the urban drainage network, a standardised local drainage manual is now required to guide the design of new residential and commercial developments within the urban area.
  • The management of drains is fragmented amongst the Land Transport Authority, the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and an existing Drainage Committee. Positive collaboration and partnership between all the agencies is paramount to sustaining drainage improvements within the Apia urban area.
  • The concept of resilience is progressively integrated into public action for disaster risk reduction. For instance, it is now understood that drainages play an important part in reducing the possibility of heavy road pavement damages during storm events.