Drought condition announced Upcountry as water use rises

Water levels in reservoirs falling

The county Department of Water Supply reissued its call for voluntary conservation Upcountry about a month after initially issuing a drought declaration, as water use continues to rise while levels in reservoirs are falling.

When the Department of Water Supply declared a Stage 1 water shortage, Upcountry reservoirs had 152.2 million gallons of water. As of Wednesday, the amount of stored water for the region had fallen by 25.9 million gallons, or 16.2 percent, to 133.3 million gallons, according to Water Supply Director Jeff Pearson. Meanwhile, Upcountry water demand over the same period increased 35 percent, from 6.9 million gallons a day to 9.3 mgd.

On May 24, he department declared a Stage 1 water shortage for customers in Haiku, Makawao, Olinda, Pukalani, Kula, Haliimaile, Omaopio/Pulehu, Keokea/Waiohuli, Ulupalakua and Kanaio due to reduced surface water flows and drier conditions.

“It is of utmost concern as we get into the drier summer months that Upcountry users reduce nonessential water use,” Pearson said in a news release. “This coupled with the uncertainty of a reliable source for the Kamole Water Treatment Plant makes this issue much more critical.”

Recently, Kamole in the Haliimaile area has been averaging 4 mgd that is pumped up to supply water for Upcountry, he added.

The county said dry conditions and higher water temperatures are expected to persist due to El Nino. Overall, the Hawaiian Islands are under a short-term (under six months), abnormally dry-to-moderate drought, according to U.S. Drought Monitor data on June 11, the county said.

“There is a possibility that the next wet season, which normally begins in October, may be dry as well,” the news release said.

A Stage 1 water shortage occurs when water demand in an area is projected to exceed available water supply by 1 to 15 percent; Stage 2 occurs when demand is projected to exceed supply by 16 to 30 percent; and a Stage 3 happens when demand exceeds supply by 31 percent or more, according to county law.

Water rates increase in Stages 2 and 3 to curtail use.

Agricultural customers are being asked to reduce water consumption to the extent practical. During a Stage 1 shortage, farmers do not need to cut back until 90 days after the drought announcement, county law says.

Conservation measures for all Upcountry customers suggested by the county include the following:

• Watering lawns only when needed and at sundown and reducing automatic irrigation time.

• Turning off water faucets when washing dishes, brushing teeth, or shaving.

• Shortening shower times or only partially filling the tub for baths.

• Washing clothes using full loads and proper settings.

• Washing cars using a bucket or taking cars to a car wash.

• Installing low-flow fixtures. Free low-flow shower heads, faucet aerators, toilet bags, hose nozzles and leak detection dye tablets for toilets are available from the department by calling 463-3110.

• Checking in and around homes for leaks.

By law, the water director, with the approval of the mayor, is authorized to declare a water shortage whenever the water supply becomes inadequate in any area in the county due to a period of drought, an infrastructure or mechanical malfunction, natural disaster, or other event causing a water shortage.

Call the 24-hour hotline at 270-7633 for questions or if a water-related problem occurs.