Committee to review proposed Lanai desalination plant

On Thursday at 1:30 p.m., Pulama Lana’i will give a presentation to the Maui County Council’s Water Resources Committee on its proposed desalination facility.

Pulama Lana’i will offer the presentation to the Lanai Planning Commission Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Lanai Senior Center. Lanai residents are encouraged to attend.

Pulama Lana’i, formerly know as Lanai Resorts, believes this technology is the solution to increase the freshwater source on Lanai by more than 100 percent, up to a total of 10 million gallons per day.

Desalination is increasingly used internationally to satisfy freshwater demand. Through this technology, salt and other minerals are removed from saline water.

Pulama Lana’i, owner of the Lanai water system, plans to invest in desalination to supplement Lanai’s aquifers.

The Department of Water Supply has said that desalination is far more expensive than other available options; however, as the county’s water-related challenges continue, we should consider all viable solutions.

Large volumes of seawater are extracted, and brine byproducts, which may include contaminants, are returned into the marine environment. Reports online cite examples of massive losses of coral, plankton and fish.

To preserve our unique culture and protect Hawaii’s vulnerable ecosystems, improved methodologies are necessary to assess the ecological impacts of desalination plants.

A desalination facility may answer Lanai’s need for new freshwater source, but such facilities may be unnecessary elsewhere if other alternatives can guarantee an abundance of freshwater for the county. As the chairman of the Water Resources Committee, I seek policies to ensure the county will generate adequate water supply in the most cost-effective and safest way possible.

The committee will also discuss a county water conservation plan.

The committee will consider extending the deadline for enactment of a plan. The committee may also consider updates to landscape-conservation plans, facility-performance standards (including leak detection), water-recycling efforts and water-waste prohibitions.

The council has found the high cost of living in Maui County leaves our community with less capital for development of new water resources. Water conservation, as a solution, will save money and can be accomplished without degradation of aesthetic values.

I would like to note that the Department of Water Supply has an existing conservation program. Please visit the county website at for resources and tips.

The department also conducts an annual water-conservation poster-making contest for kids. Some of the outstanding entries are displayed on the fifth floor of the county building.

Sometimes, the simplest idea, like “turn the faucet off when not in use,” can significantly impact the county’s water-conservation planning process. Needless to say, we can definitely learn from our keiki.

I welcome your ideas and encourage you to submit testimony to the committee. Join us in the council chamber on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. or email your testimony to

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