Friday, February 9, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, February 9, 2001

Drought emergency declared on Maui

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

WAILUKU, Maui — The Maui County Board of Water Supply declared a drought emergency yesterday for the Upcountry region and urged affected residents and businesses to conserve water.

The dry conditions that have caused a disconcerting drop in reservoir levels and ditch flows are not serious enough yet to impose mandatory water use restrictions. Officials say the voluntary conservation will help slow the depletion of reservoirs that feed the area’s water systems.

The 8,000 or so water users Upcountry already have been exercising some restraint. Total demand was reported at 5.3 million gallons yesterday. Normal demand is about 7 million gallons a day, said Department of Water Supply spokeswoman Jackie Takakura.

The department hopes to bring an additional 1 million gallons a day into Upcountry waterlines by Wednesday. Department crews are preparing a well in Haiku for service, and more water will come from an underutilized well in Kaupakulua.

The declaration of a drought emergency also allows the activation of two wells at Hamakuapoko that are expected to contribute an additional 1.2 million gallons a day. The new wells have not been put into regular service, pending environmental approvals.

The entire state has been experiencing record-low rainfall. In Kula, only .14 inches of rain fell in January. The average rainfall for the month is 3.7 inches.

Although showers have been dampening the island since the weekend, a sustained period of rain is necessary to have an impact on the Upcountry water system, which depends almost entirely on surface water.

The rest of the island relies on underground aquifers, which are not as susceptible to drought.

Water supplies Upcountry are of keen interest because the region is home to an important small-farm industry that produces vegetables and flowers.

Yesterday, the 40.5-million-gallon Piiholo Reservoir that serves Lower Kula and parts of Makawao was at 81 percent capacity and the 100-million-gallon Kahakapao Reservoir that supplies Upper Kula, K«¯kea, Ulupalakua and Kanaio at 66 percent capacity. The 30-million-gallon Waikamoi reservoir that also serves Upper Kula, was at 18 percent capacity.

The Wailoa Ditch, which brings water from the East Maui watershed for taps in Haiku, Haliimaile, Pukalani and parts of Makawao, was flowing at 30 million gallons a day yesterday. The maximum flow is about 200 million gallons a day.

Water from Wailoa Ditch, which is processed at the Kamole treatment facility, can be pumped up to the Kula systems at higher elevations, but not without incurring significant electrical expenses.

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