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August 1989

September 1989

President's Message (Arlene Ellis)
News from National Board
Campaign Reform
Act for Better Child Care
House Bill on Child Care
LWV Presents
County Initiative for Zoning
Windward Oahu Water Management Area Proposed (Kiyoko Nitz)
General Membership Meeting
Tell it to Washington

Windward Oahu Water Management Area Proposed

The state Commission on Water Resources Management held two hearings on the petition to designate "Windward Oahu" (Koolauloa and Koolaupoko) as a Water Management Area under the Hawaii Water Code. Several criteria must be met before the Commission decides to designate a Water Management Area. Windward Oahu is apparently not under an immediate threat of severe drought, nor water quality degradation. However, two criteria out of the eight will be of particular interest to a Leaguer:

  • Whether serious disputes respecting the use of groundwater resources are occurring: and

  • Whether water development projects that have received any federal, state, or county approval may result, in the opinion of the Commission, in one of the above conditions.

Previously, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply proposed an Environmental Impact Statement for Windward Oahu Regional Water System Improvements which includes 46 possible water development projects, 19 new reservoirs, and 148,540 linear feet of transmission pipelines. The EIS accepted by the state essentially describes a large-scale "inter-basin" water transfer to meet the future population increase in Oahu.

While interstate and inter-basin transfers are not new or unusual, the LWV has maintained a cautious view regarding them because such projects can have irreversible adverse impacts. Construction costs of large-scale water transfers are high, and economic losses and environmental costs in the basin of origin may also be high.

We are particularly concerned with the socio-economic and cultural impacts of such large-scale transfer. Will Windward Oahu be able to maintain its lush tropical greens? Will it diminish aquifer recharge and reduce stream flows? Will there be enough surface water for the native flora and animals in the streams and swamps? Will it affect the lifestyles of Windward Oahu? Will lowered water tables affect ground water quality and cause land subsidence? Who will pay for the cost? The new users including the land and housing developers? Or the BWS users in general including those in Windward Oahu?

An evaluation of new proposed inter-basin water transfers should include:

  • ample and effective opportunities for informed public participation in the formulation and analysis of proposed projects;

  • examination of all short- and long-term economic costs including, but not limited to, construction, delivery, operation, maintenance and market interest rate;

  • participation and review by all affected governments.

Furthermore, the social cost to the basin of origin should be examined; in this case, the Windward Oahu communities which may find gradual alteration of their natural environment, and accordingly, changes in lifestyle and economic activities. Will the Windward Oahu residents be compensated for the social cost they may pay as a result of this water transfer?

Designating the Windward, Oahu Water Management Area will enable us to examine these questions in more detail, which was not done satisfactorily for the acceptance of the BWS EIS for the water development projects. There was not sufficient data on groundwater and surface water, nor on socio-economic implications. (The Water Commission is in the process of compiling data on the volume of surface and ground water currently withdrawn by non-BWS users, and the volume of groundwater and surface water required to maintain the necessary stream flow levels to sustain the existing agricultural and cultural activities and the ecosystem. The Honolulu county is in the process of preparing a more comprehensive water use and development plan for Oahu which will address all water uses and developments including non-BWS, users.) As a future water use and development plan must be closely linked with, the land use plan. of Oahu, citizens must be given ample opportunities to carefully examine both, and to participate in this important decision making about the future of Oahu.

Kiyoko K. Nitz

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