Late yesterday, the State Commission on Water Resource Management (“Water Commission”) announced that it is ignoring its own order mandating designation of Maui’s Waihe`e aquifer, which would subject the aquifer to the Commission’s control. In November 2002, the Commission denied Maui Meadows Homeowners Association’s petition to designate the `Ïao and Waihe`e aquifers as ground water management areas and instead adopted automatic triggers for designation. One of those triggers requires designation of the Waihe`e aquifer if the water level at the Kanoa Test Hole falls below +6 feet in elevation. The Water Commission issued a press release late yesterday announcing that new data provided by the National Geodetic Survey revealed that the elevation that the Commission was using for the altitude of the measuring point of the Kanoa Test Hole was lower than previously estimated, and current water level is actually +5 feet. Instead of complying with its own order and automatically designating the aquifer, the Commission has postponed designation at least until it can further consider its decision at its October 29, 2003 meeting – effectively backtracking from its original promise.
“I’m dismayed that the Water Commission is not immediately complying with its November 2002 order. Any action short of automatic designation of the Waihe`e aquifer is based on pure politics, not science. The Commission’s own science established that the aquifer was in trouble last November. Now that data is available establishing not only that the trigger has been met, but also that the situation is worse than any of us anticipated, the Commission still refuses to act. This is absurd!” explained Jim Williamson, Vice-President of Maui Meadows Homeowners Association.
Designation is important because it is a necessary first step in controlling water use. Although the Water Commission is responsible for managing all of Hawai’i’s water resources, it has administrative control through water use permitting only in designated water management areas. Therefore, absent designation of the Waihe`e aquifer, there is practically no control over ground water pumpage.
“The health of the Waihe`e aquifer is critical to Maui’s future and its management must be taken seriously. Since we know that there are problems in Waihe`e now, if water levels are even lower than we thought, the Commission must act immediately. Under the precautionary principle, indications that natural and cultural resources may be in danger dictate protective action, not further delay. By using this new information as an opportunity to go back on its word, the Commission has it completely backward,” said Kapua Sproat an Earthjustice attorney representing Maui Meadows Homeowners Association.
Waihe`e and its neighboring `Iao aquifer provide the principal source of domestic water for the Central Maui service area, which consists of the most heavily populated portions of the island, including Central and South Maui and Pä`ia. `Ïao was designated this past July, when one of the automatic triggers were satisfied due to overpumping.
“Instead of reneging on their promise and turning their backs on the course of action needed by the resource and required by the law, we call on Peter Young and the other Water Commissioners to do their jobs and designate the Waihe`e aquifer immediately,” urged Jim Williamson, Vice-President of Maui Meadows Homeowners Association.