Water on Maui

East Maui Water

East Maui Water Development Plan

East Maui Water History

emaui-2For approximately 100 years, billions of gallons of East Maui stream waters, originating on publicly owned watershed lands, have been diverted. A series of ditches and tunnels controlled by Alexander and Baldwin (A&B), Inc. carry the water to the cane and pineapple fields of Upcountry & Central Maui. The County Board of Water Supply contracts with A&B for delivery of approximately 5% of this flow to supply water to the Haiku, Makawao and Kula areas.

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Two Maui streams restored

After years of essentially being drained dry and left for dead, two legendary streams on the Hawaiian island of Maui came back to life this week, thanks to the work of Earthjustice.

The streams were diverted over a hundred years ago to irrigate sugar cane and pineapple plantations. Over time sugar and pineapple have faded in the islands, succumbing to cheaper foreign competition. This freed up the water to restore the streams.

But the old plantation companies have other ideas. They want to develop the farmlands and bank and sell the diverted stream water. To them the water is the key to cashing in with McMansions, condos, resorts, and shopping centers, all fueled by “free” stream water.

On the other side, Native Hawaiian and local communities have waited to restore the streams and the interconnected wetland taro patches that produce a staple food as old as Hawaiian civilization. Earthjustice attorneys took the case to the state water commission and won a ruling that some of the stream water must be restored. The ruling didn’t begin to go far enough and has been appealed to the courts. But it marked the beginning of the end of the plantations’ water monopoly. The commission ordered the restoration of some flows to Waihe’e River and Waiehu Stream, two of the four major waters in Central Maui.

When the fateful day came, the plantation diverters allowed some of the water to once again take its natural course. Every year brief downpours of heavy rains would temporarily make the streams flow again which helped retain the original streambed. Now, in the middle of summer, fresh clean water from West Maui’s mountains once again flowed to the sea breathing life into the plants and animals along the way. For the first time in more than a century, and after six years of legal battles, the community saw the streams come back to life.

The restored water recalled a similar water battle fought by Earthjustice 15 years prior on the island of O’ahu. In that case, native streams were eventually restored by court order after plantations stopped using it on cane and pineapples. And on O’ahu, as on Maui, the powers that be fought stream restoration tooth and nail. They tried as hard as they could to bank the water for, surprise! – development on former farmlands.

On Maui, the plantation companies are not going quietly. They have so far refused to provide all the water they were ordered to restore. One company is even resorting to scorched earth tactics, allowing some residents with priority water rights who had been receiving water though the plantation ditch system to be cut off, and refusing to cooperate to find a solution. The truth is the plantation companies easily have more than enough water to both restore the streams and supply these residents. Earthjustice will stay at it until these problems are addressed. In the courts and in the community, we will not rest until justice, and the waters of Maui rivers and streams, flow once again for present and future generations.

Visit Earthjustice’s Restore Stream Flow webpage to view a photo slideshow of the restoration of Waihe`e River and Waiehu Stream, and to learn more about this issue.

South Maui – East Maui Water?

Maui Group Chair, Daniel Grantham, testified at a recent public meeting on the East Maui Water Development Plan. The County’s Plan proposes 8 wells along the Kauhikoa Ditch in Ha`iku and a 36″ pipeline to transport 10-15 mgd of water to Central and South Maui. Maui Group members attended and expressed their concerns: declining rainfall aver-ages in East Maui, lack of solid data on minimum stream flows, effects of well pumping on streams, exploitation of East Maui water for South Maui over development and lack of sufficient funding for ongoing watershed restoration and management. The County is under court order (after a 1993 challenge by East Maui citizens) to produce a more accurate Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the East Maui well project. A revised EIS on the plan is expected out in June. Members are invited to learn more about East Maui watersheds during upcoming Water Hike series, July thru September.


East Maui Water Development Plan (Ha`iku Wells)
SOME QUICK FACTS

PROJECT CONSTRUCTION COST: $48 million for 8 wells & 16 miles of 36″ transmission pipelines

WHO PAYS: County Water Dept rate payers (or public funding will be asked from state or federal funds.)

12/18/05 bills for well pumping will amount to millions (the County Board of Water supply currently spends $5 million year to pump fresh water from the 20 wells and numerous booster pump station systems it has island wide.)

 

WHERE DOES WATER GO: Water Dept proposes to pump 10mgd (million gal day) of Ha’iku ground water and send it to Central and South Maui

WHY: County Water Department is pressured by big corporate landowners to deliver millions of gallons of water to allow development of thousands of acres of ag land in Spreckelsville, Ma’alaea, Wailea, Makena, the Waikapu hills etc.

IMPACTS BEYOND HA`IKU: original County well plan from 1970’s called for wells all the way to Nahiku. Once transmission line gets to Ulumalu- Huelo & Honopou areas will be eyed next to send their water South. Local well owners near coast will be at “thin end of the lens.” Stream users could see impacts.

ALTERNATIVE WATER SOURCES: 50 mgd flows in Wailuku Ag ditches in central Maui in close proximity to existing pipelines. A 1.5 mgd capacity water treatment plant sits idle in the same area. Wailuku Ag has no current ag operation and sells the water to HC&S. The county is in negotiations to purchase Wailuku Ag watershed lands for $28 million. Wailuku Ag is asking $100 million….

East Maui Water Development Plan (Ha`iku Wells) MYTHS and FACTS

MYTH: Haiku Wells are part of a management plan to meet needs of future growth countywide that conforms to all Community Plans.

FACT: The Ha’iku-Paia Community Plan (p. 11) specifically states that water developed in Ha’iku should be used to meet Ha’iku’s needs first…not sent to South or Central Maui. Ha’iku Wells are not planned to supply water to Ha’iku and the County is discounting other potential water sources ormanagement strategies for South-Central Maui needs.


MYTH: County well plan consultants claim that removing millions of gallons of fresh water that would otherwise reach nearshore waters will have NO effect on marine life or ocean water quality in Ha’iku.

FACT: Studies in other areas of the state show a very strong correlation between sufficient fresh/salt water mix and increase in healthy nearshore marine life populations.


MYTH: Ha’iku streams are supplied by a separate layer of water, completely unconnected to the deeper aquifer from which proposed wells will pump.

FACT: No12/18/05mpletely unconnected. Heavy pumping can cause “coning”- water withdrawals that spread into adjoining areas. Ten years ago, consultants were certain Nahiku stream waters were separate from a deeper aquifer. This has since beeen proven untrue. More information is needed.


MYTH: Ha’iku has plenty of water, taking 10-15mgd (mil gal/day) more will have no effect.

FACT: Ha’iku streams already have 3 to 5 levels of EMI ditch systems removing millions of gallons a day and a County pipeline extracting 1.9 mgd at Awalau stream. Groundwater pumping from private and public wells currently runs 1.5mgd. Another 2 mgd more in withdrawals is proposed by new private wells. HC&S wells in Ha’iku may withdraw up to 4mgd. Small farmers rely on coastal springs, which will be affected by pumping. Who’s doing the math?


MYTH: Ha’iku wells are the most cost effective water supply for Maui’s future needs.

FACT: The pipeline and wells have an estimated construction cost of over $48 million. Annual operating costs estimates range from $2 million to nearly $8 million, depending if water is contaminated with carcinogens DBCP, EDP or TCP. There is no guarantee that wells will consistently yield the hoped for 1.5 to 1.75 mgd each.


MYTH: No other practical water sources are available for Maui’s future growth.

FACT: Over 40 mgd of water flows through the Central Maui ditch system controlled by Wailuku Agribiz & HC&S. The County has an unused five year old water treatment plant in ‘Iao valley near the ditch, capable of producing 1.5mgd of clean water a day. The treatment plant is already hooked into the County’s water line system for South Maui. The County is proposing to spend millions on Ha’iku wells and millions more negotiating to buy rights to use ‘Iao ditch water.


MYTH: Ha’iku is very rainy and has extra water to share.

FACT: Haiku has 80-100 inches of rain a year. ‘Iao rainfall is over 200 inches/year. Upper watershed above Ha’iku wells is non-native, reforested areas whose potential is less than optimum. No one knows if the watershed will support sustained 10mgd pumping. Sustainable yield of an aquifer is not based on how much rain it receives, but on how much can be absorbed and retained by the watershed.