Committee considers Upcountry and Central Maui water issues


The Maui County Council’s Water and Infrastructure Committee must consider opportunities to provide water and ensure continued access to water for county residents.

To that end, the committee, which I chair, recently considered two bills relating to water service for Upcountry residents. The committee moved those measures forward to the council, and they have since become law.

Ordinance 4970 extends the amount of time applicants are given to reserve an allocation for water service.

Previously, once an individual was notified by the Department of Water Supply that service was available, that person had only 30 days to submit an application to reserve an allocation. The process for receiving water service can be costly. As such, 30 days has proven to be too short of a time for some applicants to make the necessary preparations to incur those costs.

The ordinance extends that deadline to 60 days, providing additional time for applicants to evaluate their options and decide whether to accept water service.

Ordinance 4971 extends the duration of water meter reservations.

If applicants cannot immediately receive water service from the department, they can instead reserve an allocation of water service source capacity. The duration of this reservation used to be two years, with an option for two six-month extensions.

For many applicants, a total of three years may not be enough time to apply for and receive the permits and entitlements necessary to proceed with installing water meters. In addition, any delays in receiving these approvals could place their water service in jeopardy.

With this ordinance, the council extended the duration of water meter reservations to five years.

While these adjustments will provide some relief to Upcountry residents seeking water service, I understand this process needs to be further refined. I hope to continue working with the Department of Water Supply to identify ways to ease this process and help Upcountry residents obtain water meters.

I also intend to evaluate water needs in Central Maui. In particular, the county has the opportunity to acquire approximately 8,900 acres of land and the surface water conveyance system currently owned by Wailuku Water Co. The parcels and water conveyance system easements are integral parts of the Na Wai Eha water system.

I have proposed that the council consider authorizing funds in the fiscal year 2020 budget to acquire this important watershed. If the acquisition is successful, the county could take on a key role in preserving the significant historical and cultural resources in the area and protecting the Na Wai Eha water system for generations to come.

My hope is the county will co-manage this important resource with a qualified cultural entity. Working together, we can ensure this watershed is protected for Hawaiian cultural practices, including kalo cultivation and the propagation of native stream animals, as well as for the benefit of all citizens who are beneficiaries of the water.

This acquisition will be further discussed by the Water and Infrastructure Committee. If you would like to weigh in on that discussion, you can submit your comments to the committee via email at WAI.Committee@mauicounty.us, referencing WAI-1.

Water will always remain a critical issue, and I look forward to collaborating with the community and my fellow council members to ensure the community’s needs are met.

* Alice Lee is chairwoman of the council’s Water and Infrastructure Committee. She holds the council seat for the Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.