Students excited to learn about watersheds, do their part to protect island’s water supply

Over 400 school children, teachers, chaperones, adult volunteers and others turned out at Pua Loke Arboretum near the county Department of Water recently to learn what they can do to protect the island’s life-giving water sources.

Not a bad turnout at all for a first-ever watershed-awareness education event, coordinated by Kymm Solchaga, DOW public information specialist and Hawai‘i coordinator for Project WET (Water Education for Teachers).

Local volunteers interested in clean water for Kaua‘i’s eternity brought out displays and information about the island’s watersheds, which from the ancient times were nurtured and protected by the kapu and ahupua‘a systems.

The kapu system, enforced by ruling chiefs and their soldiers, imposed harsh penalties for taking fish, shrimp, prawns or other living things from island streams during certain times of the year.

The penalty was death.

The punishment for wasting water was banishment from the area, which was akin to a death sentence in some cases.

The ahupua‘a system of land and water management, dividing the island into several pie-shaped pieces stretching from the mountaintops to the ocean, is being brought back at Waipa on the North Shore, and is a favored stream-restoration model for watershed organizations east and west.

This is just some of the information conveyed to the students participating in the first-ever Make A Splash Festival on Kaua‘i.

The idea is to educate students and teachers about being not only good neighbors to human friends, but to be good watershed neighbors as well, Solchaga said.

Project WET began on the Mainland in 1984, and with corporate sponsorships including Nestle the Mainland Make A Splash festivals are some of the largest water-education events in the country.

At the first Kaua‘i gathering, some 45 members of the Kapa‘a High School Junior ROTC helped in educational booths, among other duties setting up and manning an educational display showing younger students the interaction and relationship between multiple users of agricultural water.

This was part of the East Kaua‘i Water Users Cooperative booth. The cooperative was established to maintain a complex irrigation system of flumes, ditches, tunnels and reservoirs previously maintained by Amfac Sugar Kaua‘i men when they were growing sugar as employees of Lihue Plantation.

When LP went out of sugar nearly three years ago, the fate of the irrigation system, nearly all on state-owned land, was in doubt. Co-op members, who use the water for irrigating a variety of crops and to nurture livestock, formed to ensure the water would keep flowing.

Maj. Ashley Kuhaulua and others from the Kapa‘a High School Junior ROTC program also helped the youngsters make personal water-usage meters.

Rhoda Libre of the Westside Watershed Council talked to the fifth graders about leptospirosis, a water-borne disease generated by the feces of wild animals.

Jude Schwarze of the state Department of Health worked with the students to test water quality using samples from Kaua‘i streams.

There were other lectures, games, and inter-active programs during the two-hour event.

For more information, please see the DOW Web site,, or the Project Wet site,


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