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
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,”
“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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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 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.