Monday, January 15, 2001
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Posted on: Monday, January 15, 2001

Big Island takes step to counter drought

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

HILO, Hawaii — Despite yesterday’s welcome rainfall, there are signs drought may be back on the Big Island with normally deep green lawns showing patches of light yellow and brown.

As a result, the Hawaii County water department has ordered 10 percent less use by consumers almost islandwide.

There is a threat of 25 percent use restrictions being imposed if the situation does not improve. So far this year, Hilo began the day yesterday with .01 of an inch of rainfall. The average rainfall for this time of year would be about 3.8 inches.

This month’s dry spell follows December’s unusually dry 4.53 inches — 37 percent of normal.

And farmers and ranchers are complaining despite the roaring 30 inches received in 30 hours Nov. 1-2 in much of Hilo and Ka’u.

As county teams still mop up flood damage, farmers are trying to extend limited water supplies, and homeowners on catchment already are backed up by three to four days on orders for water haulers to replenish their dwindling tanks, according to Civil Defense officials.

The cost of getting 4,500 to 5,000 gallons of water delivered ranges from $93 for short hauls to $190 or more for longer runs, according to figures compiled by Bill Davis, Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator.

The drought alarm was sounded Wednesday when Hawaii County water officials announced the cutbacks that affect most of Hilo, all of Ka’u and North and South Kona, and parts of Puna and South Kohala. It was only July of last year when the last of the restrictions from the 1997-2000 drought were canceled.

The water staff said there are no dire situations yet but they want to avoid overextending pumps and depleting wells. Parts of Hilo also are affected by the Komohana Street damage from the November flood, which not only wiped out a huge section of roadway but ripped apart the key water line in the mauka Hilo area.

Meanwhile, Maui has received little rain over the past month and a half, with many regions experiencing less than 10 percent of the normal rainfall in December, according to the National Weather Service.

The dry weather has forced the county’s Department of Water Supply to pump more water to Upcountry areas where reserves are low. But conditions haven’t reached the point where water officials are ready to declare a drought emergency.

Jacky Takakura of the water department said the Board of Water Supply may be forced to make such a declaration if dry conditions persist.

There may be no relief in sight. Kevin Kodama, National Weather Service senior hydrologist in Honolulu, said rain isn’t in the forecast for the next week to 10 days. While conditions may change with windward showers next week, leeward areas can expect to remain dry, he said.

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