Voluntary water cutbacks called for Upcountry

National Weather Service hydrologist: Amount of rain down

A Stage 1 water shortage declaration for Upcountry, which calls for voluntary cutbacks by consumers, goes into effect today due to drier-than-normal trade wind flows so far this summer.

The dry conditions are expected to last through the summer and into the fall, according to county Department of Water Supply and National Weather Service officials Monday.

Dave Taylor, water director, announced the Stage 1 declaration Monday to take effect today with the approval of Mayor Alan Arakawa. A Stage 1 water shortage can be called if the water director determines that anticipated demand in an area is projected to exceed supply by 1 to 15 percent due to drought conditions or other factors, such as natural disasters.

The Stage 1 declaration calls for consumers in Haiku, Makawao, Pukalani, Olinda, Kula and Ulupalakua to voluntarily conserve and avoid unnecessary water use, the water department said.

“It is important to note that the Stage 1 shortage simply requests voluntary conservation as a way to help avoid a Stage 2 or 3, which would implement shortage rates,” said Taylor.

A Stage 2 declaration would increase the per-gallon cost of water by 25 percent in the 15,001 to 35,000 gallons range and by nearly 50 percent in that same range for a Stage 3 declaration, according to the water department website.

In considering whether to implement Stage 2, Taylor said he will consider weather patterns, reservoir levels, surface flows, usage, operational status of production facilities and if anticipated demand exceeds available supply by 16 to 30 percent.

Stage 2 conditions could arise in two weeks if no new water flowed into the Upcountry system, “which has not been historically realistic,” he said. The Upcountry system is fed mostly by surface water with limited supply from three wells.

If things get really dry, Upcountry could go from full reservoirs to Stage 3 — with demand exceeding supply by 31 percent — in about a month, Taylor said.

Upcountry reservoirs currently are nearly filled. The 100-million gallon Kahakapao Reservoirs had 92.6 million gallons and the 50-million gallon Piiholo Reservoir had 45.3 million gallons Monday, according to the water department website.

The Wailoa Ditch, which brings water from East Maui, was running at 22.6 million gallons a day, 11.3 percent of capacity.

Rainfall in the East Maui watershed “has been pretty low,” said Kevin Kodama, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu. The East Wailua Iki rain gauge recorded some rain over the past week, but it’s been “pretty low” elsewhere in the watershed, he said.

At this time of year, with the exception of tropical storms, moisture in the trade wind flow soaks the watershed, but the amount of rain has been down this year, he said.

“It has been kind of odd,” Kodama said. “The rainfall has been pretty suppressed.”

It’s possible that Upcountry could get some rain from Hurricane Fernanda, which is spinning more than 1,500 miles east of the islands, he said. It is expected to weaken as it approaches, but the system is currently too faraway to project its impact on Hawaii’s weather.

Fernanda also could increase the drought problem by blocking the moisture-laden trade wind flow, he said.

“It’s not looking too good right now” for rainfall, Kodama said. “The projections don’t really call for a really big boost in rainfall.”

Taylor said Stage 1 conditions could last through the fall until the rainy season begins. As Upcountry consumers learned in April when a Stage 1 shortage was called, one heavy rainfall event was not enough.

“Immediate rainfall, regardless of intensity, would not change the shortage declaration,” Taylor said. “A National Weather Service forecast of rainy weather through the rest of the calendar year would be more likely to affect the shortage declaration.”

The department offered suggestions on conserving water:

• Install low-flow fixtures. The department’s Water Resources and Planning Division offers free low-flow shower heads, faucet aerators, toilet bags and hose nozzles. The office is located at One Main Plaza, Suite 102; the phone number is 463-3110.

• In the kitchen, fix water leaks, wash a full load of dishes in the dishwasher and keep a container of drinking water in the refrigerator.

• In the laundry room, wash full loads of laundry and use an Energy Star washing machine.

• Water lawns only when needed; avoid watering if it is going to rain; aim sprinklers so water is not wasted on sidewalks; and check garden hoses for leaks.

• For swimming pools, install a pool cover, turn down the thermostat and plant a windbreak.

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

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