Low coral islands are heavily dependent on groundwater for freshwater supplies. The availability, quality, and management of groundwater are central to sustainable development and poverty alleviation in many developing small island nations. The declaration by the Government of Kiribati of water reserves on the atoll of Tarawa, over privately owned land, has lead to conflicts, illegal settlements and vandalism of public assets. Beside, the water consumption per capita tends to increase towards western-like standards, threatening the sustainability of the actual exploitation system. Finally, pollution generated by the 45 000 habitants of South Tarawa has already contaminated all the freshwater lenses, with the exception of the existing reserves so far.