Managing Molokai’s Water Supply

Letter to the Editor

The present breakdown of the pump at Well 17, or Kalualohe Well, is a clear indication that Molokai Ranch does not have adequate water infrastructure to cover its existing needs, and shouldn’t be allowed develop more houses on the West End. As a result of this breakdown, Molokai Ranch is depending on the Hawaiian Homes domestic system to supply Kualapuu town as we speak, and the Molokai Irrigation System (MIS) to supply Kaluakoi in the event the breakdown exceeds 15 days.

Last Saturday, Molokai Ranch exhausted their surplus of water stored in the MIS, and is now taking water from its mountain system to supply Kaluakoi. Up to recently, the mountain system was used exclusively to supply Maunaloa town. If the breakdown of Well 17 takes longer than 15 days to repair, Molokai Ranch would put its future water for Maunaloa town in jeopardy if they overuse their mountain system as back-up.

The mountain system captures water throughout watershed from above Kalamaula all the way to above Kawela. This system depends on winter rains to fill the reservoirs above Kalamaula, and can hold over 60 days’ worth of water for Maunaloa town when filled. If they have to supply the normal needs of both Kaluakoi and Maunaloa, the mountain system reservoirs could be drained in 15 days.  

In case of a fire on the West End, they have inadequate water to fight the fire, and this was evident a few weeks ago. Instead of using their own water to fight the fire located closer to the hot spots, they ordered the tanker truck to fill water in Mahana, using Hawaiian Homes domestic water. Why use your own limited water resource when you can take from your neighbor? There’s a Hawaiian word for this and I think its ‘hana ino’.

The breakdown of this pump is nothing new and is actually an annual event. In 2002, the pump broke for 6 weeks, at which time Molokai Ranch dependeds on the farmer’s water to supply Kaluakoi, while Hawaiian Homes again supplied Kualapuu Town.    

Molokai Ranch’s dependence on other water systems is a poor way of doing business. Their water storage is insufficient, and they’re attempting to store water in the Molokai Irrigation System as a back-up. However, this is illegal according to the agreement between the Department of Agriculture (DOA) and Molokai Ranch which stipulated that there should not be any storage of water and that Molokai Ranch put in for what it withdraws at Kaluakoi. Both stipulations of the contract have been violated many times by Molokai Ranch, and also the previous owner of Well 17, Kukui Molokai aka Tokyo Kosan.

There’s also some kind of hanky panky going on up at Puu Nana where water is being dumped into the forest. Compounding this, there was recently a line break in this same area. Last Friday, Molokai summer school students and teachers touring Puu Nana saw a river gushing down the road, and this appears to have been going on for several years judging from the green area. Could this be a strategy to increase their quota of water from the Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM). Maybe that’s why Peter Nicholas keeps saying he has enough water for La’au. This definitely warrants an investigation by CWRM. I think there’s a Hawaiian word for this also and its ‘poho’.

All of this is happening at a time when farmer’s water use is highest and very little water is coming from the Waikolu Valley to fill the farmer’s reservoir. In fact, the MIS is experiencing daily deficits when over 1 million gallons more are being used than is coming down from Waikolu Valley each day.

The writing is on the wall. Taking care of what we have first is more important than trying to build more homes. And don’t put the Maunaloa residents through hardships by giving them water every other day!

Glenn Ioane Teves, Hoolehua


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