Chair’s 3 Minutes: Panel considers improved water-shortage bill

Based on concerns raised during public testimony, I’ve introduced a revised version of pending legislation granting the director of Water Supply power to enact special water-saving measures during times of drought or other water shortages.

The Water Resources Committee will consider the revised water-shortage bill on Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the Council Chambers.

Council members have reviewed this proposed legislation for months.

The County Water Code (Chapter 14.06 of the Maui County Code) gives the director of Water Supply the authority to impose certain conservation measures during a declared drought. The bill proposed by the administration would allow for enhanced conservation measures, including water-rate increases, when a “water shortage” has been declared by the director of Water Supply, with the mayor’s consent.

A water shortage could be declared because of drought, mechanical malfunction, human error or other events leading to a shortage of water in a designated area.

Testimony before both the committee and the full council has suggested ways of improving the bill to provide a higher level of council oversight and safeguards for consumers, while still ensuring adequate protection of the county’s water supply.

The revised version of the bill I have proposed requires the director of Water Supply to report to the council within 45 days on the status of a declared water shortage. My version also requires the council to review Chapter 14.06 every three years and make amendments as necessary to make the ordinance more effective.

These provisions ensure legislative oversight by the council on the public’s behalf.

As proposed by the administration, consumers affected by the water shortage would be subject to a possible rate increase. My version of the legislation would shield affected consumers from water-rate increases when shortages are caused by infrastructure malfunction, mechanical malfunction or human error.

My proposal also includes a partial exemption for agricultural consumers. Farmers wouldn’t face higher water rates for the first 60 days after a water-shortage declaration, allowing them time to reduce water consumption and revisit their farm plans.

These elements provide more consumer protection than the original version of the bill.

As amended, this bill fulfills one of the committee’s primary responsibilities – to recommend updates to the Water Code to ensure our residents have a sufficient supply of drinkable water. When a water shortage exists in an area, it’s important for the Department of Water Supply to move quickly to impose effective conservation measures for the benefit of residents in that area and throughout the county.

As can be seen by deliberations on the water-shortage bill so far this term, public testimony often has a direct impact on legislation pending before the council and its committees. So I urge anyone with remaining concerns to share them with the Water Resources Committee this coming Wednesday morning at 9 in the Council Chambers or in the Hana, Lanai or Molokai district offices.

You may submit testimony to

* Michael P. Victorino holds the County Council’s residency seat for the Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu area. He is the chair of the Water Resources Committee. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.