Filtration System Keeps Saipan Lagoon Cleaner

The Takeaway: The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ coastal program made the system feasible by updating environmental regulations and fining those who don’t comply.

The reef-fringed Saipan Lagoon spans nearly the entire 12-mile length of the island’s western side and attracts local people and businesses, subsistence fishers, and many of the roughly half-million visitors to the commonwealth each year. Runoff from nearby urban watersheds was hurting water quality and reef health, but a new stormwater filtration system has lessened lagoon contamination and the number of “red flag” health advisories. It was funded by updating permit regulations and levying fines on the violators, courtesy of the Coastal Resources Management Program of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The new system cuts down on the days that stormwater runoff breaches the drainage outlets and enters the lagoon, which is great news for swimmers, snorkelers, divers, and the businesses that depend on them. A cleaner lagoon also provides a healthier environment for corals and other ecosystem creatures and habitat. (2019)

Partners: Commonwealth Utilities Corporation, and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Coastal Resources Management Program and Division of Environmental Quality