Residents sound off on water issues

The state Commission on Water Resource Management is chiefly concerned with how much water is available and how those quantities should be managed.


The state Commission on Water Resource Management is chiefly concerned with how much water is available and how those quantities should be managed.

But West Hawaii residents are just as worried about threats to water quality, judging from a scoping meeting held by CWRM in Kailua-Kona on Tuesday evening.

Residents expressed concern about the lack of information on just how much of the precious resource is available under the surface. How to keep pesticides and sewage pollution out of drinking water, and how to make management decisions based on incomplete science — but with significant human impacts — were other issues raised by about 70 people who packed a workshop with CWRM at the West Hawaii Civic Center.

The input was designed to help CWRM draft a Water Resource Protection Plan update that will focus on better assessment of the water available around the state, water shortage planning, water conservation and improved monitoring data. The last update was in 2008.

Water Program Manager Roy Hardy acknowledged that data on water volume is limited and better reporting on well pumping is needed. But statistics already available from stream gauges statewide point to declining flows likely because of climate change, he said.

“All of the stream levels are going down,” he said. “That’s an issue we’re looking at.”

Projections of drier times ahead could be offset by the discovery of a layer of fresh water under the saline water deep in the island, said CWRM staff, who facilitated brainstorming sessions. The water is under pressure, meaning it’s being pushed down by possibly abundant sources at higher levels on the mountain. But little is known about the water.

Concern surfaced repeatedly about the possible designation of Keauhou aquifer as a state water management area, but Hardy stressed that CWRM was trying to get a handle on water issues from North Kohala to South Point.

“As we try to deal with balancing supply and demand, how much do we really understood?” asked Dave Elbogen, a partner at Honokohau Properties. “We have critical decisions coming up and it strikes me there is a great deal of uncertainty and a lack of good information for the commission to make their decision on.”

Elbogen was referring to the petition by the National Park Service to designate the Keauhou aquifer. The CWRM is set to make a decision in June on whether to take over control of the aquifer amid concerns by NPS over potential harm to water levels from pumping and a corresponding fear by many in West Hawaii that the added layer of bureaucracy would smother development.

“I would like to see a lot more coordination. The people who manage the water and the people who provide the water need to talk to each other more, but they don’t,” said John Gavelek. “They see each other as threat.”

A summary of the Water Resource Protection Plan Update can be found at

Comments on the water issues important to you can be emailed to: Jeremy Kimura ( or Sherri Hiraoka (


A water workshop will be held in Hilo from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday at the Aupuni Center.

Public hearings on the draft water management plan will follow the release of the public draft in late 2015 or 2016.

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