Dry weather has left Upcountry reservoirs nearly dry, forcing the county Department of Water Supply to drastically reduce production at the Olinda Water Treatment Facility this week, according to an announcement.
As of Friday, the 30-million-gallon Waikamoi reservoirs had only 500,000 gallons and the 100-million-gallon Kahakapao reservoirs, 33.1 million gallons. Those reservoirs feed water to the Olinda plant, and Jacky Takakura, the department's administrative officer, said the level of water in the reservoirs is not enough to support full production of the Olinda plant, which normally provides water to upper Kula residents.
According to an announcement from the water department, the Olinda plant would treat only enough water for Olinda residents, about 100,000 gallons per day. Normal production is 1.8 million gallons daily.
The Kamole and Piiholo water treatment facilities and the Pookela well in Makawao will provide water to upper Kula but that will require costly, heavy use of electricity to pump water to higher elevations, Takakura said.
Next week, upper Kula residents may notice a change in water quality because the water coming from lower elevations is disinfected with chlorine, officials said. The Olinda facility uses chloramines for disinfection, which do not have a chlorine smell. Olinda residents will continue to get water disinfected with chloramines.
The water meets all federal and state water quality standards, according to water officials.
The Kaupakalua well in Haiku is out of service because of a motor replacement, and the Hamakuapoko wells are not ready to provide water to customers, department officials said.
A measure of how dry it's been Upcountry can be seen in readings taken in the Wailoa Ditch, which gathers water from East Maui ditches and streams.
It has a maximum capacity of nearly 200 million gallons per day.
But on Friday, it was running at 54.5 million gallons, or 27.3 percent. On Thursday, it was at 34.6 million gallons, or 17.3 percent. On Wednesday, it was at 28.5 million gallons, or 14.3 percent. And, on Tuesday, the ditch ran at 89.8 million gallons, which was better but still only 45 percent of capacity. For the four days preceding Tuesday, the ditch was running at less than 22 million gallons, or less than 11 percent.
The 50-million-gallon Piiholo reservoir had 44.5 million gallons, but Takakura said it was being replenished with water pumped uphill from the Kamole Weir.
Also this week, the U.S. Geological Survey announced statewide hydrologic conditions, reporting that rainfall on Maui in October was the third lowest on record since 1928. The report said that Maui had below-average rainfall in the past three months, and that Puu Kukui, deep in the watershed in the West Maui Mountains, recorded below-average rainfall in seven of the last 12 months.
In October, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's rainy season outlook for Maui Count and for much of the rest of the state was that dry conditions would persist, and that this year's winter wet season would not bring enough rain for Maui County and the Big Island to help the drought-plagued islands fully recover. The wet season generally runs from October to April.
The water department is reminding all Upcountry businesses and residents to check for leaks and to conserve water until the winter rains can replenish the upper Kula reservoirs.
"We are still asking customers to reduce water usage by 5 percent," said water Director Dave Taylor. "Daily average usage is about 6.9 million gallons per day. However, the average demand for the past week has been 8.8 million gallons per day. This is high."
Current water levels can be seen on the water department's website at www.mauiwater.org.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.