Water system again down four wells, no restriction yet in effect for North Kona

  • A water restriction sign flashes on Highway 190, also known as Mamalahoa Highway, in February of last year. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Another North Kona well went down.

Palani Deep Well fell offline around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night, Nyssa Kushi, spokesperson for the Hawaii County Department of Water Supply (DWS), confirmed in an email to West Hawaii Today Wednesday.


One of the beleaguered North Kona system’s 13 water sources, Palani’s failure brings the tally of inoperative wells in the system back up to four. Throughout a saga now approaching 18 months in duration, as many as five wells and no fewer than two wells have been simultaneously malfunctioning in North Kona since January 2017.

At different points in the past, DWS has mandated a 25 percent water restriction, including times when only three wells were offline. Kushi said the department had not reinstated that order as of Wednesday afternoon on the heels of a fourth well failure.

“They’re still monitoring the situation, but at this time it appears that just the 10 percent is in effect,” said Kushi, referencing a voluntary 10 percent water conservation effort DWS has been pushing for several months.

The department brought Palani online in 2012, repairing it three times in the six years since. It was most recently returned to service just over seven months ago on Oct. 1. DWS has in the past characterized the expected lifespan of deep well equipment as typically between 5-7 years.

Officials couldn’t elaborate on the precise cause of Palani’s failure Wednesday, as equipment must be excavated and examined before such a determination can be made. However, the department did confirm the well’s motor was inoperable.

The Hawaii County Water Board assembled a working group late last year to identify potential sources of widespread, premature failure of deep well equipment in North Kona that at one point last summer required residents halt all non-essential water use, impacting businesses and construction projects.

The group, which included Water Board members, employees of DWS and members of the private sector, identified poor storage practices and overworked equipment as sources of failure and problems to be fixed.

However, the scaling back the gallons per minute pumped at well sites, which would decrease production in favor of longevity and redundancy, will only be incorporated into new well construction.

Also, as of now, DWS doesn’t have the necessary infrastructure to store well equipment vertically, which is preferable to horizontal storage practices currently in place.


The department is in talks with mainland manufacturers about storing replacement parts in their facilities for a fee, but DWS Manager-Chief Engineer Keith Okamoto said the most recently quoted prices proved untenable.

Along with Palani, deep wells at Honokohau, Hualalai and Waiaha remain offline. Kushi said, however, that DWS has secured contracts for work at Honokohau and Hualalai “with repairs to start soon.”

  1. KonaDude May 10, 2018 2:41 am

    Maybe more raises would help?

    1. golfpunk500 May 10, 2018 3:29 am

      I was thinking the same thing except the raises don’t seem to help much. Oh hell, it’s just taxpayer money, not like it’s coming out of the Mayor’s pocket.

      1. KonaDude May 10, 2018 7:23 am


  2. Pest Outwest May 10, 2018 3:41 am

    It’s just too funny, one thing after another. Someone needs to write a book about government incompetence on these islands, why is it that local agencies screw up constantly? Is there something in the water? Are they eating too much poke, and the methyl mercury in the tuna is rotting their brains? There has to be a reason for this endless series of comedies. Even the Three Stooges had to retire eventually.

    1. KonaDude May 10, 2018 7:23 am

      No accountability. We have already seen if you do a poor job you get a raise!! Who in the system would want that to change?

  3. Big Mac May 10, 2018 5:09 am

    Harry Kim needs to bring in an outside well drilling consultant to do a thorough audit of this water company. They are obviously doing something or many things very wrong and we aren’t getting any answers. There is absolutely no accountability. Come on Harry, they aren’t going to admit their incompetence or ask for help. Be a leader or retire.

    1. Buds4All May 10, 2018 6:57 am

      I am just afraid of the cost and does he have recitatives on the mainland in this line of work?

      1. Big Mac May 10, 2018 7:09 am

        We almost can’t afford not to see what these knuckleheads are doing wrong. Wells keep failing at a high rate with no explanation. The water company is waiting for things to die down before they jack our rates up big time.

        1. Buds4All May 10, 2018 7:25 am

          You cant expect cotton rope to hold those pumps for starters

    2. KonaDude May 10, 2018 7:21 am

      I think almost anyone with some common sense, construction/operation background and reading skills could find the problem pretty quick, if they are not on the payroll already!

  4. Big ideas May 10, 2018 5:38 am

    Instead of building a homeless shelter next to the public school…trying spending that money on spare well pumps so taxpayers have water.

  5. 4whatitsworth May 10, 2018 6:30 am

    I would just start stabilizing then eliminating the common variables in the system:
    1) Electricity (Make sure it conditioned, monitored and perfect)
    2) Plumbing and Water Pressure (No spikes and lulls in presure)
    3) Pumps (New Equipment and New Vendor)
    4) People (I used to think people would be the last change but maybe it needs to be the first change this time around)

    1. Buds4All May 10, 2018 7:02 am

      Sorry I have one prior to your step one….remove the idiots running the rudderless ship and replace them with knowledgeable people. I am sure someone that has the proper skill set on the mainland wants to live here go find them.

      1. CongressWorksForUs May 10, 2018 10:26 am

        Even before that, stop ordering pumps made with Chinese steel…

      2. 4whatitsworth May 10, 2018 10:50 am

        Well your right, but our politicians and many of the voters will say that your solution is just to simple!

  6. Buds4All May 10, 2018 6:58 am

    Come on man………this can not be the norm?

  7. konablue May 10, 2018 8:50 am

    This is stupid, where in the world, beside third world countries, does this happen? Our County Government is the worse example of incompetence I can imagine.

    1. Du Mhan Yhu May 10, 2018 8:55 am

      This is much like some third world countries, complete with being run by rabid leftists.

  8. Jim Passon May 11, 2018 7:59 am

    And no management changes, and i’ll bet they got a raise.!?

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