Restore Stream Flow

  • I'ao stream diversion.
  • Restoration of Waihe`e River and Waiehu Stream. Upper diversion on Waihe`e River with the entire flow of the river being diverted. (August 9, 2010)
  • Waihe`e River <i>makai</i> ('seaward') of the first release. Note the rocks in the foreground: you can see how the water level rose by comparing the darker 'limu line' to the lighter color of the portions of rock that were above the water before the restoration (and some are now completely submerged). In the background, a Water Commission staffer is measuring the restored stream flow and recorded 7.85 mgd. (August 9, 2010)
  • Release of water from the upper gate, flowing back into Waihe`e River. (August 9, 2010)
  • Restored pool in Waihe`e Stream, <i>makai</i> ('seaward') of the first release. (August 9, 2010)
  • Lower release of water on Waihe`e Stream, <i>makai</i> ('seaward') of Spreckels Ditch. (August 9, 2010)
  • Water flowing back into Waihe`e stream <i>makai</i> ('seaward') of the second release point. (August 9, 2010)
  • Restored stream flowing into Kaehu Bay on the shores of Waiehu. (August 10, 2010)
  • Hui o Na Wai `Eha President John Duey, observing Waiehu stream flow into the ocean for the first time in six years. (August 10, 2010)

Water in Hawaiʻi is a public trust resource, protected under the state Constitution and Water Code. From the mid-19th century, plantations diverted many rivers and streams for sugar cane and pineapple, depriving native ecosystems and communities of life-giving flows. Now that plantations have phased out, stream flows can and must be restored. Many diverters continue to hoard water, but the state has a trust duty to protect and restore public instream uses, including environmental values and traditional and customary Hawaiian practices.

Earthjustice is working with communities across Hawaiʻi to restore native rivers and streams and end excessive and wasteful plantation-era diversions. Our efforts include the Waiāhole case on Oʻahu, in which the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court issued a landmark opinion in 2000 affirming public trust protections for water resources, the ongoing Nā Wai ʻEha (“The Four Great Waters”) case on Maui, in which community groups obtained a favorable Hawaiʻi Supreme Court ruling in 2012, and our latest action, asking the state Water Commission to restore flows to Waimea River on Kauaʻi, in the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”

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Latest Legal Cases & Victories

Restoring Kauaiʻs Waimea River
Earthjustice, on behalf of community group Poʻai Wai Ola / West Kauaʻi Watershed Alliance, has brought legal action to protect the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” and restore stream flows to the Waimea River on Kauaʻi. (July 24, 2013)

Landmark Victory For Hawaiʻi Streams And Communities
The Hawaiʻi Supreme Court has upheld the public trust and Hawaiian rights, ordering the state water commission to reconsider the fate of Nā Wai ʻEhā, or “The Four Great Waters” of Waiheʻe River and Waiehu, ʻĪao, and Waikapū Streams on Maui.(August 16, 2012)

Maui Streams Flow Again
After years of essentially being drained dry and left for dead, two legendary streams on the Hawaiian island of Maui—Waihe'e River and Waiehu Stream—came back to life. Fresh clean water from West Maui's mountains is once again flowing to the sea, breathing life into the plants and animals along the way. (August 16, 2010)

Victory: Citizens And County Of Maui Settle Lawsuit Over Streamwater Treatment Plant
The County of Maui and Maui community groups Hui o Na Wai ‘Eha and Maui Tomorrow Foundation, Inc., represented by Earthjustice, announced the settlement of a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS") for a proposed water treatment plant that would take water from streams that are under dispute in an ongoing Maui water rights case. (July 21, 2010)

Central Maui Stream Restoration
Earthjustice petitioned the state Commission on Water Resource Management to establish instream flow standards that would sustain beneficial instream uses, such as ecological protection, Native Hawaiian practices, recreation, and scenic values in Central Maui. (July 6, 2010)

Returning the Water to Na Wai `Eha
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. (January 29, 2010)

Settlement Will Help Restore Maui Streams
In December 2005, Earthjustice—on behalf of two Maui community groups, Hui o Na Wai `Eha and Maui Meadows Homeowners Association—announced a groundbreaking resolution of litigation over ground water from the `Iao aquifer. (August 31, 2006)

Videos

Water Writes is a series of 10 collaborative mural projects in 10 cities across the globe. The theme of water connects the participating communities and documents the current local and international water crisis. In 2011, Water Writes created a large mural at Honolulu Community College, chronicling the importance of restoring stream flow to Hawaiian communities. Learn more about the making of this mural.

In 2012, the Supreme Court of Hawaiʻi heard oral arguments on the ongoing battle to ensure that the waters of Nā Wai ʻEhā are available for traditional and customary Hawaiian practices. ʻŌiwi TV produced this video feature, featuring interviews with Isaac Moriwake, Kapua Sproat and clients on this case. This feature is presented in the Hawaiian language.

Watch Kaulana Na Wai Eha
Kaulana Na Wai Eha ("Famous are the Four Streams") is the story of how millions of gallons of water are needlessly diverted and dumped, instead of being restored for public instream uses.
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Featured Stories

In an audio interview, Earthjustice attorneys Kapua Sproat and Isaac Moriwake discuss the decades-long battle over water rights issues in Hawaii and how they're working with the Hawaiian community to take back what's legally considered a public resource.
After years of essentially being drained dry and left for dead, two legendary streams on the Hawaiian island of Maui—Waihe'e River and Waiehu Stream—came back to life.
"The Four Great Waters" have major cultural and environmental importance to the people of Maui, including the growing of taro and the support of healthy fisheries.
Hawaiʻi residents should contact state and local officials and let them know that you support stream restoration in Nā Wai ʻEha. For contact information,
Former sugar plantations have vastly reduced their crops or switched to others that require far less water. Still, these companies continue to drain the Na Wai `Eha streams as they did at the height of sugar cultivation.
Read our fact sheet refuting several fictions with the facts in the Maui stream restoration case.
* Streams and Ditches in Na Wai ‘Eha
* Radio Interview with Kapua Sproat: Who Owns Our Water?
* Maui News: USGS releases report on Na Wai ‘Eha (5/20/10)
* Honolulu Advertiser: It's Time For Balance In Na Wai ‘Eha (10/13/09)