Upcountry urged to conserve water

Maui County water officials called on Upcountry residents Wednesday to double their voluntary water conservation, reducing normal use by 20 percent, due to the dry weather conditions.

“If we do not get rain soon and demand remains high, we will have to implement mandatory cutbacks to preserve our water supply,” Department of Water Supply Director Dave Taylor said in an announcement, while reporting “unusually low” amounts of water flowing into the Upcountry water system in early winter. “If customers can use less, we can make it through without mandatory restrictions until the rains replenish the reservoirs.”

The department’s warning reported that the 30-million-gallon Waikamoi reservoirs were empty Wednesday, and the 100-million-gallon Kahakapao reservoirs held only 45.1 million gallons. It noted that the National Weather Service’s forecast for the week called for rain in Makawao from “less than a 10th of an inch to a quarter of an inch.”

Other troubling signs of dry conditions Upcountry on Wednesday included:

* The Wailoa Ditch has a nearly 200-million-gallon-per-day capacity, but its flows were 22.4 mgd, or 11.2 percent; and for the week of Oct. 24 through Wednesday, the ditch was flowing at an average of 23.4 mgd.

* The Piiholo Reservoir contained 27.8 million gallons, or 55.6 percent of its 50-million-gallon capacity. “The reservoir is at a relatively safe level due to daily pumping up from the Kamole facility (in Haliimaile) to the reservoir,” the announcement said.

* The total demand for water Upcountry averaged 8.2 mgd last week, while normal weekly demand averages 7.1 mgd.

The water department’s action followed a declaration of a drought watch for Upcountry on Aug. 30 because of “extremely dry water conditions and low flows into the water reservoirs.”

Water customers were asked to cut back water usage by 10 percent or more.

The affected areas for both notices include Haiku, Makawao, Olinda, Haliimaile, Pukalani, Omaopio/Pulehu, Kula, Keokea/Waiohuli, Ulupalakua and Kanaio.

Water officials said that if the department can’t maintain reservoir levels customers may be subject to mandatory restrictions with the penalty of meter removal. If charged with a violation, customers may be fined $500 for each violation.

To help conserve water, consumers should check in and around homes for leaks, use water conservatively and install water-saving devices where possible. Suggested conservation methods include putting off washing cars, irrigating lawns or filling storage tanks or reservoirs.

Free low-flow shower heads and leak-detection dye tablets for toilets are available at One Main Plaza, Suite 102 in Wailuku.

For more information on how to save water, contact the water department at 463-3110. To report leaks in the water system, call 270-7633.