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Friday, September 22, 2023
State Water Commission Holds Marathon 12 Hour Meeting
By News Release @ 9:55 PM :: 1664 Views :: Maui County, Land Use


News Release from DLNR, Sept 22, 2023

(HONOLULU) – Tuesday’s marathon meeting of the Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM) revealed and reinforced many of the issues and plans CWRM staff is working on regarding west Maui water resources.

Dawn Chang, Chair of CWRM, explained, “Governor Green recently lifted the suspension of the State Water Code in Emergency Proclamation #7.

During the meeting Chang emphasized that now that the Water Code has been reinstituted, the permitting process for both ground water and surface water applications continues. “We are in the preliminary stages of reviewing all received applications for existing and new water permits, assessing the water needs in light of the impact to West Maui, and coordinating with Maui County’s Department of Water Supply.”

Chang also acknowledged the overwhelming support during the CWRM meeting for water deputy Kaleo Manuel.

After the fires, Chang tasked the CWRM leadership team to seek, in collaboration with the Maui Department of Water Supply, identification of alternative sources of water that could become immediately available to Lāhainā.

Wells in the Fire-Impacted Area

On behalf of CWRM, officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) documented the integrity of water wells in the impact zone. CWRM staff analyzed photos taken by the officers and determined two of 12 wells sustained damage in the August 8 fire.

Ryan Imata, Hydrologic Program Manager for CWRM’s Ground Water Regulation Branch added, “The other 10 wells have structural integrity, though we remain concerned about the potential for contamination of these wells as debris removal begins in Lāhainā. We will be conducting further checks on these wells and working with the Department of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to address any contamination issues.”

Interim In-stream Flow Standards (Interim IFS)

CWRM hydrologist Dr. Ayron Strauch painted a bleak picture for just how much surface water is available in the sector for domestic use, appurtenant rights, traditional and customary Native Hawaiian practices, ecosystem services, and for beneficiaries of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL).

“We have new data, supplemented by data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) which will support the ongoing assessment of water availability and the impacts of off-stream demands on limited water resources. Interim IFS may have to change as our climate and hydrological conditions change. Drought conditions are bad and will continue to be so seasonally and annually,” Strauch said.

Dean Uyeno, acting CWRM Deputy said, “We will continue enforcing current Interim IFS to ensure the needs of all the people of West Maui, have equitable and fair access to limited fresh water supplies.”

Water Resource Alternatives

Strauch also outlined potential options for Maui County to increase potable and non-potable water supplies in the Lāhainā Aquifer Sector Area.

He said repurposing existing infrastructure to bring reclaimed water (R-1) beyond

Ka‘anapali to Lāhainā and beyond holds great promise.

Strauch explained, “There’s less water to go around as available surface flows continue to drop due to persistent drought conditions. Maui County has a great opportunity to offset these reductions by utilizing reclaimed water, which is the recycled water that flows out of treatment plants. Very little new construction would be necessary by using existing infrastructure.”

Reclaimed water can be used to water crops, orchards, golf courses, and for landscape and irrigation purposes. “There’s less seasonal fluctuation in source production,” Strauch told the commission. He said relining certain reservoirs and rebuilding some spillways may be all that’s needed to upgrade reservoirs for storage so that new pipelines can get R-1 water across the Lāhainā sector.

A second option identified during the CWRM meeting was repurposing development tunnels that have fresh groundwater discharging into streams. These tunnels tend to be at the higher elevations of the West Maui Mountains and this water could be gravity-fed to Maui County’s system.

CWRM and the State Water Code came into existence in 1987, following a 1978 Constitutional Convention which established the need for a coordinated, statewide water resource management approach.

Despite some, who testified during Tuesday’s 12-hour-long meeting, claiming the suspension of the water code during the fire emergency set everything back to before 1987, Chang said that is not accurate.

She concluded, “We want people to know, that despite the short suspension of the water code none of our work stopped and the impacts of the fires to West Maui created an urgency to further explore other viable water options and infrastructure improvements to protect ecosystems, traditional and customary practices, and reasonable beneficial use. Water management is complicated and CWRM seeks balance in water use and allocation, as it should be. It is the lifeblood of Hawaii, e Ola I Ka Wai.”

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