Upcountry experiencing ‘moderate’ drought conditions

Citing the declaration of a drought watch Upcountry, the U.S. Geological Survey in its “National Drought Summary” released last week said that very dry trade winds the previous three weeks had lowered stream flow diversions from the northeast-facing slopes of Haleakala that feed water supply reservoirs.

“Moderate” drought conditions have pushed into the Upcountry area, the report released Tuesday said.

Water Director Dave Taylor issued the drought watch Aug. 30, citing “extremely dry water conditions and low flows into the water reservoirs.”

He has asked water customers to voluntarily conserve water by 10 percent or more until rain refills the dwindling Upcountry reservoirs. The affected areas include Haiku, Makawao, Olinda, Haliimaile, Pukalani, Omaopio/Pulehu, Kula, Keokea/Waiohuli, Ulupalakua and Kanaio.

On Sunday, the Wailoa Ditch, which collects water from the East Maui watershed, was flowing at 24 million gallons a day, only 12 percent of the maximum flow of nearly 200 mgd. That figure was down from 28 mgd a week ago, the water department said in its report of Upcountry water levels (www.co.maui.hi.us/index.aspx?NID=1085).

The Kahakapao reservoirs, which have a total of 100 million gallon capacity, were at 26.3 million gallons, down from 30.5 million gallons Sept. 1, the water department said. The 30 million gallon Waikamoi reservoirs were empty and the 50 million gallon Piiholo Reservoir was at 35 million gallons.

The rest of the island was dry for the quarter as well, the USGS report said.

Most of East and West Maui was deemed “abnormally dry” in the report released Tuesday; the isthmus of the island was in “moderate” drought condition and a section in Kihei was in “extreme” drought condition, the third highest of four levels of drought in the report.

For the June-to-August quarter, the USGS reported rainfall on Maui at 55 percent of average.

For the year through August, Puu Kukui in the West Maui Mountains had a total of 169.24 inches, 66 percent of average rainfall. Puu Kukui, one of the wettest places in the world, which recharges key island aquifers that provide drinking water to Maui residents, has been “below average” eight of the last 10 months, USGS said.

In August though, the National Weather Service reported that most Maui County rain gauges reported “near to above average rainfall totals,” mostly due to one event, Tropical Storm Gil. For example, Kepuni in the Kanaio area reported rainfall at 620 percent of average for the month with 3.04 inches, but of that total, 2.86 inches were the result of Gil.

Elsewhere in the county, the Lahainaluna (0.44 inches) and Molokai Airport (0.96 inches) gauges had their highest August rainfall totals since 1995 and 2004, respectively, the National Weather Service report said. The Molokai Airport rainfall was 152 percent of the average for the month.

Rainfall at the Kula 1 station was 1.76 inches, 136 percent of average rainfall for the month; the drought-stricken Ulupalakua area had 1.26 inches of rain, 116 percent of normal; and Waikapu logged 0.92 inches, 180 percent of normal.

Gauge totals from across Maui County were in the near to below average range for 2013 through August, the National Weather Service said.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.