KULA - Mayor-elect Alan Arakawa said Wednesday that the county had "more than adequate water supply" and that he hoped to begin issuing water meters to people on the Upcountry meter list within a few months of taking office.
Arakawa also said he planned to address what he thought were inequities in county regulations that required landowners applying for water meters to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on infrastructure or risk losing their place in line.
The incoming mayor was speaking at a meeting of the Kula Community Association, where he had been asked to speak on water concerns.
"Our administration intends to deal with the water issue head-on," Arakawa said.
He said there was no question that enough water was available to meet Upcountry's demands; the only question was how costly it would be and how long it would take to distribute it to the community.
He noted that the county's Kamole Weir Water Treatment Facility, which was upgraded during his previous administration, now has a sustainable capacity of 6 million to 7 million gallons per day and is capable of treating up to 10 million gallons per day over short periods.
"We could cover all the Upcountry water meter requirements if we wanted to," he said.
County water officials report the Kamole Weir currently has an average daily production of 3.6 million gallons per day.
The facility is fed by Wailoa Ditch, with the county receiving a share of the water moving through a system owned and operated by East Maui Irrigation.
Arakawa acknowledged Wednesday that while there was abundant water flowing through the ditch during rainy seasons, low flows during the dry summers were a recurring issue.
Asked after the meeting to clarify his plan for increasing the actual amount of water flowing through the expanded treatment facility, Arakawa refused to answer questions.
During his presentation, Arakawa discussed several options that he said could add additional water sources to the Upcountry system.
The Maui County Council previously passed a law prohibiting the use of two wells in Hamakuapoko for human consumption, even with treatment, due to pesticide contamination. Arakawa said water from those wells could be added to EMI's system in exchange for an equivalent amount of clean surface water from the company's ditches.
Arakawa also said that if the state Legislature moves forward with funding to complete a designated agricultural waterline, that would allow more of the Upcountry system's capacity to be dedicated to domestic water use.
When asked by an audience member how long it would take the county to begin issuing water meters Upcountry, Arakawa said his administration would "have to get the specifics ironed out" but added that it would not take long.
"It may take us more than a day, but it's not going to take us more than a few months to start," he said.
In other comments that seemed to resonate with the Upcountry crowd, Arakawa said he wanted to see the Department of Water Supply make its requirements for water meter applicants less burdensome.
Currently, landowners may be required to pay for the infrastructure upgrades needed to connect their property with the main water system - improvements that can in some cases cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Arakawa said it was unfair to make landowners wait years to apply for a water meter and then to impose requirements so expensive that they couldn't afford to move forward with their project.
He said it would be more equitable for the county to be responsible for the infrastructure and spread the cost among all water users.
"We need to re-evaluate how the county is treating people who don't meet existing requirements," he said.
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.