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Restoring Rivers and Streams in the Hawaiian Islands

Upper diversion on Waiheʻe River, with the entire flow of the river being diverted, in August 2010.

Upper diversion on Waiheʻe River, with the entire flow of the river being diverted, in August 2010.

What's at Stake

Rivers and streams in the Hawaiian Islands are a public trust, and should not be drained dry for private profit and land development.


As the sugar plantation era phased out in Hawaiʻi, the water it had appropriated for a century should have been returned to taro fields and native habitat.

But the plantation companies turned to land development and kept taking the precious water.

A continued series of cases, several of which have gone all the way to the state supreme court, has reaffirmed the legal principle of water as a public trust and methodically succeeded in restoring flows to traditional uses.

"In the end, I believe [the Nā Wai ʻEhā] case will stand as a testament to the staying power of grassroots communities committed to justice and the ability of Earthjustice to champion their cause for the duration.

"We will not rest until justice—and The Four Great Waters of Maui—'roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.'" – Isaac Moriwake, Attorney

Case Updates

April 18, 2017 | Legal Document

Mediation Agreement for the Waimea Watershed Area

Agreement concluding a year-long mediation involving Pōʻai Wai Ola, the state-run Agribusiness Development Corporation, the Kekaha Agriculture Association, the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, and the Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative. Under the agreement, tens of millions of gallons of water each day will be restored to the Waimea River and its headwaters, and no diversion will ever be a total diversion again.

March 9, 2016 | Legal Document

Petition: Citizens Take Action To Increase Flows In Maui’s “Four Great Waters”

Maui community groups Hui o Nā Wai ʻEhā and Maui Tomorrow Foundation, represented by Earthjustice, filed a legal petition to the state Commission on Water Resource Management to increase the flows in Nā Wai ʻEhā—Maui’s “Four Great Waters” of Waiheʻe River, Waiehu Stream, Wailuku River, and Waikapū Stream—based on the recent announcement by Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. that it will shut down its Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar plantation by year’s end.