Lake Waiau remains full after nearly disappearing in 2013

  • Lake Waiau is seen in this photo taken on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy Office of Maunakea Management/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Lake Waiau is seen in this photo taken on June 23. (Photo courtesy Office of Maunakea Management/Special to West Hawaii Today)
  • Lake Waiau is seen on March 14, 2017. (DLNR/Special to West Hawaii Today)
  • This U.S. Geological Survey photo shows Lake Waiau on Sept. 13, 2013. At the time, the water area was just 15 yards wide. The lake is normally 100 yards wide. (USGS/Special to West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Lake Waiau’s water levels remain robust almost five years after it nearly disappeared amid years of drought.

The alpine lake, situated in Puuwaiau cinder cone more than 13,000 feet above sea-level, was full as of Tuesday, Dan Dennison, senior communications manager for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said Thursday.


Water quality also seemed “above average to the eye,” he said. That was clearly evidenced in recent photos captured by rangers with the Office of Maunakea Management, showing a robust, clear blue lake. The rangers, along with the DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife, continuously monitor the sacred site atop Maunakea.

Lake Waiau has now been full or nearly full since fall-winter 2014, a stark contrast to fall-winter 2013 when the high-elevation lake was shrinking fast due to years of drought. Water had started receding in 2010 and by the end of 2013, there was just a puddle in the lake’s center.

While the lake is normally 100 yards wide, the U.S. Geological Survey reported it was just 10 yards wide and 9 inches deep on Sept. 26, 2013. By December, the lake’s maximum depth measured just 5 inches.

Leading up to the near-loss of the lake in 2013, the closest rain gauge, situated at Hale Pohaku at 9,200 feet in elevation, had recorded near to well-below average rainfall since 2005. The long-term average at Hale Pohaku is 25.18 inches, according to National Weather Service Senior Hydrologist Kevin Kodama.

From 2014 to 2016, the gauge measured near to above average rainfall, according to Kodama. Last year, rainfall was somewhat below average.

Kodama said because some data is missing for this year, it’s hard to say with certainty if rainfall is up or down. However, based on data collected for January and April as well as looking at how wet Hawaii Island was between February and April, it can surmised that rainfall at Hale Pohaku through April was near to above average, he said.


When full, the lake has a maximum depth around 10 feet, according to photographic monitoring and data of Lake Waiau kept by state agencies since 2012.

Lake Waiau is a “perched” water body in which water is held in a depression by a continuous layer of fine material in its surroundings, which is covered by periglacial slope deposits. The fine layer acts as an aquifer that may gently release water into the lake over the year, according to a 2016 report by Matthias Leopold and Norbert Schorghofer, the most recent research released on the lake.

  1. diverdave July 6, 2018 3:20 am

    I remember well how all the global warming alarmists claimed that the fall in water level was due to the climate changing and the lake would soon be gone. Wrong again.

  2. Kaipo Wall July 6, 2018 9:01 am

    the Hawaiian nativists also claimed that the Hawaiian gods were angry due to the observatories on top da mauna

    1. sonneofmanisrael July 6, 2018 10:32 am

      You have the quotes or just playing local?

  3. Pest Outwest July 7, 2018 6:43 am

    So that horrific blue guide book we all hate has this wrong. They claim it’s the only tropical lake in the world fed by permafrost. Actually it turns out it’s just maintained by rainfall.

  4. Buds4All July 7, 2018 10:08 am

    Can’t wait to get my ski boat up there……

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email