Column: We can do much today to invest in our isles’ water systems By Dana Okano November 1, 2018 Updated October 31, 2018 8:23pm
If you’ve never experienced it before, it’s hard to imagine a day without water. But considering our isolated geography and changing climate, we should all take a moment to imagine what such a day would mean to our lives. Recent findings have raised concern about long-term fresh water security for our islands. University of Hawaii and other scientists have documented troubling trends, including reduced rainfall, higher evaporation rates and declining stream flows in recent decades. These findings suggest that Hawaii is entering an era of fresh water uncertainty. Approximately 60 percent of Hawaii’s potable water supply is from groundwater aquifers, and for the urban core of the City and County of Honolulu, groundwater is 90 percent of the potable water supply. Groundwater is recharged by precipitation events. There has been reduced rainfall of 22 percent across the state of Hawaii over the past 30 years, and climate models show trends that drier areas will get drier and wetter areas will get slightly wetter. Hawaii’s watershed forests are the primary source of freshwater capture, and only half of those remain, with only 10 percent of the remaining acres currently in active protection. The scale of changing rainfall patterns, plans for increased local food production, and land use changes demand a proactive and coordinated response to water security that protects a sustainable and affordable water supply.
Recognizing that Hawaii was in need of a comprehensive and coordinated approach, the Hawaii Community Foundation convened a diverse council of experts from across the state to proactively address this issue. “Wai Maoli: Hawaii Fresh Water Initiative” has resulted in a plan to create 100 million gallons per day of additional, reliable fresh water supply by 2030. To achieve this, we need to conserve, recharge and reuse more water through innovation, greater efficiency and expanding protections for watersheds and water supply. In coordination with the Fresh Water Initiative, the Hawaii Legislature has passed important legislation to help drive efforts toward this goal. Some of the legislation includes establishing a water security pilot fund, support for utilization of reclaimed water for nonpotable uses, requiring utility water audits, requiring adoption of updated plumbing codes, support for hydro power on agricultural lands, and support for stormwater management consideration in state planning. Each of us will play a role in helping to meet these challenges. By working together, we can make water security a reality. Do your part by turning off faucets, fixing leaks, watering lawns in the evening, and updating to low-flow plumbing fixtures when making repairs or updates to your home or business. Even a single day without water would be a public health and environmental crisis. That’s why we joined with hundreds of groups across the country to educate our communities on the value of water last month, for the “Imagine a Day Without Water” campaign. No community can thrive without water, and we all deserve safe, reliable, accessible fresh water. Let’s invest in our water systems now, so our keiki never have to imagine a day — or live a day — without water. For more about Hawaii’s Fresh Water Initiative, see www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/file/Hawaii-Fresh-WaterInitiative-Summary-Report.pdf. http://www.staradvertiser.com/2018/11/01/editorial/island-voices/columnwe-can-do-much-today-to-invest-in-our-isles-water-systems