How can Maui have a shortage of fresh water? As I write this, the rain is coming down in thick, glorious sheets, cooling the air after a muggy, voggy day. It doesn’t make sense that there’s not enough water for the island, that people wait for years, even decades to get a water meter for their house, and that Hawaiian farmers do not have enough water to grow taro, when parts of Maui are considered among the wettest places in the world.
|This quote from Samuel Coleridge, The Rhyme of The Ancient Mariner |
is perfect to describe Maui's crazy fresh water shortage.
In a way, it’s like the problem of world hunger – there’s enough food to feed the world’s population, but the problem is distribution.
The root of the problem
For decades, Maui streams and rivers have been diverted for use to irrigate sugar cane and pineapple fields. As Maui’s agriculture has been declining, the water could be returned back to the streams. Legal cases have been won, with judgments to restore stream flow, but the laws are not being fully implemented. Here's a transcription of a Maui talk on Na Wai Eha by EarthJustice.
What factors are involved?
Many people suspect greed is at work here. Companies like HC&S are believed to have plans to develop the agricultural lands into housing and want to retain the water rights for development. (On the other islands where sugar cane is no longer commercial grown, those ag lands have become houses.) Companies which hold water rights are also trying to sell water to the county for a surface water treatment plant. (Sounds ironic, doesn’t it – needing water to treat water, like a plot for a dystopian scifi novel?) Please check out this FAQ on myths and facts regarding Na Wai Eha.
|This Facebook post was public, which is why I have not blacked out the names. |
Read the original post on Maui Now.
One major court case centers around Na Wai Eha, the four major streams traditionally known as the Four Great Waters, an important Hawaiian cultural site. Although proponents won a victory to restore stream flow, only water from two of the streams has been restored. Still yet, it’s a step in the right direction.
A recent lawsuit concerns stream waters in East Maui, after residents discovered that the State of Hawaii approved water permits allowing streams to be diverted for another 30 years by local companies. Taro farmers in East Maui are in an uproar.
Water is a public trust resource in Hawaii and many local residents allege that the state and the county have been misusing their powers and are doing anything but protecting this resource.
Other examples of freshwater pollution include:
Pumping waste water into Lahaina injection wells, the drinking water that goes into people’s homes in West Maui.
Pesticide and chemical contamination of Hamakuapoko Wells, which the County wants to use as a back up water source. Some fear the County is already using this contaminated drinking water for some parts of Maui.
Polluted storm water and construction run off also end up in the ocean.
On the positive side, more people are become educated and active on these issues, questioning the government and private companies, and advocating for greater protection of public water. Maybe social media is helpful? Here's a friend's Facebook post about possible illegal dumping from a West Maui construction site.
(By the way, while I have your attention, three friends are running interesting projects:
Here's a shortcut to the archives for the A to Z Challenge and other blog posts.
The theme of this year’s A to Z Challenge is Living on Maui: A Beginner’s Survival Guide. While I can’t include everything in only 26 short blog posts, this is my foolish attempt.
If you are participating in the Ato Z Challenge, please use either Disqus or Facebook to comment below. Please include your link so that I can visit you back, but it might be as late as May!