Low rainfall beginning to take toll

LIHU’E — Dry weather conditions, which have existed on Kaua’i since November,

have reduced the flow of the Kekaha and Koke’e ditches by 50 percent or more,

and are adversely impacting Lihu’e Plantation’s non-irrigated sugar

fields.

Kekaha Ditch flows are down a little less than half of normal, said

Lyle Tabata, vice president and manager of Amfac Sugar Kaua’i. And flows from

the Koke’e Ditch system are down nearly 75 percent compared to normal levels.

It hasn’t gotten to the point where some irrigated fields are going

without water, but the company has had to make decisions about rationing water

to the various crops, which include seed corn, sweet corn, alfalfa, papaya and

mango in addition to sugar.

On the Eastside, half of LP’s fields are not

irrigated, so those that depend on rainfall for their water are “stressed,”

Tabata said.

“Even though we had showers this weekend, nothing

considerable” came in terms of rainfall, he said.

Lack of rainfall is also

causing concerns for younger sugar fields, especially those solely irrigated by

rains, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Hawai’i Agricultural

Statistics Service.

The dry weather is depleting reservoirs in addition to

causing the low ditch flows, which mean reduced irrigation resources, which

means younger fields cannot be irrigated fully.

According to county

Department of Water figures, last month was the driest in over a year at

locations from Kilauea to Kekaha.

Where Kekaha normally gets just over two

inches of rain in February, last month less than an eighth-inch of rain

fell.

Kilauea normally records over 5.5 inches of rain in February, and

last month got only three-quarters of an inch.

Lihu’e usually records over

four inches of rain in February, and last month got around a half-inch.

An

average February in Wailua sees over four inches of rain, but last month less

than a half-inch was recorded.

‘Ele’ele averages just under three inches of

rain in a normal February, but last month recorded only about a quarter-inch. A

normal February brings around five inches of rain to Kalaheo, but this February

only about a half-inch fell.

According to the Hawai’i Crop Weather

newsletter, ‘Oma’o normally has seen around 17 inches of rain by this time of

year, but through Sunday, it had received only around seven inches of

rainfall.

The results have meant farmers and backyard agriculture

practitioners have had to water their crops more.

Drinking water supplies

are holding up, at least for now.

“It has been dry for several months, so

we’re concerned,” said Ed Tschupp, deputy manager of the county Department of

Water.

And while state officials and representatives of all the counties

are doing drought planning work, the county hasn’t yet considered issuing

advisories that drinking water reserves are in short supply, he said.

All

users should continue to use water wisely, he said. With some regional

exceptions, precipitation levels are below normal on the island for every month

since November.

Since not all of the county’s water systems are connected,

shortages of potable water would be more likely only in specific regions of the

island rather than islandwide, Tschupp added.

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