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Returning the Water to Na Wai `Eha

In central Maui, the water from a system of freshwater streams known as Na Wai `Eha or "The Four Great Waters" has been diverted for more than a century to irrigate sugar plantations, even after the decline of the sugar industry on the island. Now, a proposed decision by the Water Commissioner of Hawai`i would restore 34.5 million gallons a day to Na Wai `Eha, about half of the diverted flows.

The proposed decision is the first step by the Water Commission to resolve a legal battle dating back to 2004, when Maui community groups Hui o Na Wai `Eha and Maui Tomorrow Foundation, represented by Earthjustice, petitioned the commission to restore the streams. The major water diverter is a former sugar company-turned-water company, which now turns a profit by selling water to private development projects.

"Wailuku Water Company's attempted water profiteering is an affront to the principle, enshrined in the Hawai`i Constitution and affirmed by the Hawai`i Supreme Court, that water is a public trust resource that belongs to all," said Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake. "We hope that the commission will follow through on its trust obligations to ensure that justice, and the waters of Na Wai `Eha, will flow freely for the benefit of all the people of Hawai`i."

Final arguments were heard in October 2009, and a final decision is expected soon.