Water system deficiencies limit residential water meter permits

LIHU’E – In places where on clear days you can see one of the wettest spots on earth, you can’t get a water meter.

System deficiencies in the Moloa’a and Puhi areas are forcing the county Department of Water from issuing new water meters for residences or businesses, said Edward W. Tschupp, DOW engineer and acting manager.

The Lihu’e area, from Puhi to Hanama’ulu, has “a number of problems with source” including a surface layer of clay and weathered rock that makes getting to water sources expensive and difficult, he said.

“We’ve been fighting the geology for years,” and battling some more modern foes, like wells drying up altogether or showing reduced output as a result of the exodus of sugar growing and irrigation in the area, he said.

The area has lots of small wells, and some of those have been showing decreasing water levels since the 1980s, made worse when Amfac got out of sugar altogether two years ago.

But the Water Department is fighting back, with four new wells in various stages of construction, Board of Water Supply approval to hire a geological consultant to examine the possibility of deepening existing wells and exploring other potential fixes, and a collaboration with Grove Farm which aimed at examining the potential of using treated surface water for drinking.

In Puhi now, no water meters are being issued until Grove Farm provides a new water source for development, he said. Tschupp hopes Grove Farm’s surface-water treatment plant, under development now, will solve some of the source problems in Lihu’e.

The DOW is working closely with Grove Farm, he said.

In Lihu’e and Hanama’ulu, up to three residential-sized meters (5/8 inches) are allowed per lot.

Moloa’a suffers from a source shortage as well, and has around seven existing customers, he said.

Eastern Kilauea, upper Wainiha, ‘Anini and Waimea are places where owners can only get one 5/8-inch water meter per lot, with portions of Kilauea deficient in both water source and storage capabilities, he said.

The department is trying to site another well and another storage tank in Kilauea, he said. East Kilauea has a transmission problem, as a single line bringing water to the area around Waipake uses gravity to move the water.

Currently, the DOW buys water from Princeville to supply ‘Anini. In Waimea, the DOW lost a source a few years ago, and now water from Kekaha is used to supply some Waimea customers. Kekaha has restrictions that enable lot owners to acquire up to three meters per lot.

A new Kekaha well may ease Waimea restrictions. But, those Westside towns will need additional storage eventually, too, Tschupp said.

There are areas like Kalaheo, Hanapepe, ‘Ele’ele, Koloa, Po’ipu and Hanalei that do not have any current deficiencies in either source, storage or transmission, and hence no restrictions on numbers of meters available per lot.

Just off the “no-meter” list is Anahola, where for six years residents couldn’t get DOW meters, he said.

Recently, state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and DOW representatives executed a long-term license agreement allowing the DOW to use storage tanks on DHHL property, solving that community’s storage problem, Tschupp said.

On Kaua’i, site of Mt. Wai’ale’ale, one of the wettest spots on earth, there have probably been developers frustrated because they cannot get water meters for planned residential or commercial projects in various regions of the island, he said.

While he knows of no specific residential development whose developers have been forced to either develop their own source or wait until the DOW develops a source because of system deficiencies, he said some development has probably been stalled because of lack of available water.

“Through Water Plan 2020, we’re trying to address these deficiencies,” he said of the DOW’s master plan to attack shortages of source, storage and transmission all over Kaua’i.

Well water source deficiencies are pretty much self-explanatory. If there’s no water available, there is no need for a place to store it, or pipelines to deliver it to customers.

System deficiencies are determined on an engineering-based formula based on industry standards involving an average-day demand for water and a maximum-day demand for water.

On Kaua’i, the average household uses around 500 gallons of water a day. Multiplying that average-day demand by 1.5 gives maximum-day demand, or around 750 gallons a day for an average Kaua’i home, he explained.

“Our desired place to be is that we can meet the maximum daily demand with existing sources with the largest well (of a particular system) out of service,” Tschupp said.

That can get a bit tricky, as some systems have only two wells, he noted.

That excess-capacity standard is similar to what the state Public Utilities Commission demands of Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative, that the KIUC system have enough capability to generate electricity for the entire island with the largest single power-producing unit out of service.

Where storage capabilities and the DOW are concerned, the department seeks to be able to meet average-day demand with available storage. Inadequate storage requires wells to work harder than they would with enough storage, he said.

Additional storage tanks act as buffers, too, allowing certain systems to have storage beyond average-day demand, which is a good thing, he said.

The adequate-water standards have changed over time, too, “so we’ve been playing catch-up to meet updated standards,” said Tschupp.

The ‘Ele’ele and Hanapepe system seem to be in the best shape of any on the island, with four wells, and good storage and transmission facilities. Through 2020, some projected deficits in that system could be avoided through conservation efforts, he said.

The Lawa’i and ‘Oma’o systems, though benefited by being connected to the Kalaheo system, still have some storage limitations that have prompted the DOW to allow only up to two meters per lot.

A new storage tank for that area is in the design phase.

In the Koloa and Po’ipu areas, there are no current restrictions. When Alexander & Baldwin begins building its 1,000-acre Kukui’ula resort community, it will be responsible for providing its own source, storage and transmission facilities, he said.

Ha’ena and Wainiha have three wells, but just two storage tanks, including a redwood tank near Wainiha Powerhouse Road that is scheduled to be replaced. There, storage deficiencies mean property owners can only get up to three meters per lot.

There are a few private water systems on the island, including Princeville, and Robinson family land between Hanapepe and Waimea. It will be the family’s responsibility to provide enough water for its planned Kapalawai Resort near the Russian Fort, he said.

In some areas of the island, fire-protection limitations could preclude placement of new schools in certain locations. Fire-protection flow for schools needs to be 2,000 gallons a minute for two hours, he said.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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