West Maui water quality topic of meeting

Presentation July 30 at Lahainaluna

The results of two years of water quality monitoring from Honolua Bay to Papalaua near the pali will be presented at 6 p.m. July 30 at Lahainaluna High School cafeteria.

The free presentation will focus on how clean the ocean water is along 19 shores and beaches of West Maui. The public is invited to learn about the results gathered by Hui O Ka Wai Ola, a community-based coastal water monitoring program co-managed by Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, The Nature Conservancy and West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative.

“Come learn about the scientific data that our volunteers and staff have gathered through our diligent work in the field and in the lab,” said James Strickland III, project manager of Hui O Ka Wai Ola. “We encourage everyone to attend, to learn about the water quality issues that we’ve found in West Maui.”

Hui O Ka Wai Ola, “Association of Living Waters,” is the first citizen science-based water quality monitoring program of its kind in Hawaii and works in close operation with the state Department of Health Clean Water Branch. More than 40 Maui residents volunteer with Hui O Ka Wai Ola.

Since monitoring began in 2016, the program has collected and analyzed over 700 water quality samples from 49 sites in West and South Maui.

“Our primary motivation for launching this program was the health of Maui’s coral reefs,” said Robin Newbold, co-founder and chairwoman of the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council. “Coral reefs need clean ocean water to survive; especially during this time of warming ocean water, sea level rise and climate change. Having this data is an important step in working for clean ocean water along our coasts.”

The Hui O Ka Wai Ola program follows a strict Department of Health approved Quality Assurance Project Plan. As a result, the Health Department readily accepts the Hui’s data and incorporates it into its reports and databases, the news release about the event said.

Every three weeks, trained volunteers walk through knee-deep water to gather ocean water samples from 39 monitored locations in leeward Maui. Additional analysis of the samples takes place in labs that are hosted for free by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and Lahainaluna High School. The samples are also frozen and shipped to the UH School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology Analytical Laboratory on Oahu.

By identifying where water is impaired and why, the community can begin to identify the sources of impairment.

“For example, when we find areas with high levels of nutrients, we can look for upslope issues like chemically insensitive landscape management practices or historic agricultural that impacts the ocean through runoff or via groundwater,” says Tova Callender, coordinator of the West Maui Ridge to Reef initiative.

All data collected by the Hui is made available to the public at huiokawaiola.com, PacIOOS and Zenodo. The data also has been uploaded to the Environmental Protection Agency’s STORET database for use by state and federal agencies.

This volunteer-based citizen science water monitoring group’s data have been included in the state Clean Water Branch’s Integrated Report to the EPA, “2018 State of Hawaii Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report.”

“This community-based program is an excellent example of how people can organize to supplement the efforts of our hardworking state agencies,” said Kim Falinski, marine science adviser for The Nature Conservancy. “Our program has paralleled state-collected data protocols and developed standards available for groups in Hawaii and beyond to adopt in creating similar programs.”

To learn more, visit www.huiokawaiola.com or at www.mauireefs.org.

* Billida Boutu is an intern from Maui High School working on her senior project.