PUHI — While state legislators gathered Thursday for a hearing on the controversial water bill, HB 1326, water experts gathered at Kauai Community College to chat about water rights in celebration of Earth Month.
It was the first of four “Kava Konversations,” where panelists experts discuss issues related to Earth-related topics including food, climate change and water.
Thursday’s talk provided a background on wai, or water, in Hawaii, and local perspective on water law. Panelists included Adam Asquith of Kealia Farm, Anne Fredrick from the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action, County Councilmember Mason Chock and Jonathan Scheuer from Oahu.
And while panelists discussed the history of water legislation in Hawaii, HB 1326 was deferred in committee.
“That bill we’ve been talking about, it just got deferred, and we think it might be dead,” Fredrick said, updating the group that was listening to the panel discussion live at Kauai Community College and broadcast on KKCR. “I think it’s worth people taking a moment to recognize.”
She pointed out that dozens of people from around the state and from Kauai flew over to Oahu to testify. Some who were planning on being present for the panel discussion weren’t able to make it because they were on Oahu testifying and witnessing the hearing.
The conversation took on the nuances of the diversions on Kauai, and the history of how those came to be. Diversions on Maui and other islands were addressed as well.
Asquith and Scheuer talked about the history of water as a public trust resource on Kauai, both pointing to a longstanding rule that it’s the people who own the water and the government is simply a steward of that public trust resource.
Scheuer said while Hawaii’s water is a public trust resource, laws outline ways for owning water.
“We have this law that was written at a time when we thought there was privately owned water,” Scheuer said. “There is no privately owned water. It’s something we have a shared right (to).”
While the Legislature will be continuing to debate and discuss HB 1326, the Earth Month Kava Konversations will move on to other topics throughout April. They’re hosted at the KCC One Stop Center and broadcast on KKCR. Currently, the schedule is still being created for upcoming Kava Konversations.