Published in The Maui News, August 14, 2016
By GLADYS BAISA, The Maui News
Maui County is in the process of updating its Water Use and Development Plan, which will serve as the long-range planning guide for all water uses.
The County Council’s Water Resources Committee, which I chair, received an update and a projected timeline from the Department of Water Supply last month. The department hopes to submit a draft plan to the council for approval next year.
The plan will address changes in water source and usage of potable and nonpotable water. The plan will also include projected population growth and the allocation of water to various land uses. The new Water Use and Development Plan will provide an updated inventory of supply and demand.
Agriculture usage currently consumes approximately 90 percent of available water in Maui County. At this time, it is unclear how the closure of the sugar plantation will affect future water usage.
The committee discussed the plan’s anticipated strategies for drought and climate change adaptation. Other key issues include water transport infrastructure, conservation policies, educational outreach, water quality and Native Hawaiian rights.
Director of Water Supply Dave Taylor noted the department’s comprehensive planning strategy is affected by current legal proceedings. Litigation-related constraints hinder the department’s work on the plan.
Taylor noted community input is important to the department. Community workshops on the Water Use and Development Plan will begin again in the fall.
Proposals for providing water to the nearly 1,900 applicants on the Upcountry water meter priority list will be included in Maui’s Water Use and Development Plan.
Fairly and adequately addressing the needs of those on the Upcountry priority list has been a key issue for me and an ongoing concern for the county. Earlier this month, I convened another Water Resources Committee meeting to get an update on this matter.
There is some water available to applicants on the priority list. But the process to issue water meters is cumbersome, costly and time consuming.
The committee discussed a number of possible solutions to speeding up the process of meter issuance. Residents can be on the priority list for decades at the rate meters are currently being issued.
As you may recall, the council provided exemptions to some costly infrastructure requirements to help some applicants on the priority list via Ordinance 4255 (2015). This law’s purpose is to provide that applicants on the Upcountry priority list who have been offered water meters from the Department of Water Supply and are able to connect to the existing water system shall not be required to make further infrastructure improvements for fire protection, subject to certain conditions.
I will continue to work with the department and my colleagues on the County Council to explore ways to tackle the Upcountry water meter priority list. I’m committed to getting answers for the public and to providing water to Upcountry families.
The county’s diligent work on the Upcountry priority list and the Water Use Development Plan is needed to fulfill core responsibilities to residents. It’s noteworthy that the General Plan establishes the following policy for Maui County: “Improve water systems to assure access to sustainable, clean, reliable and affordable sources of water.”
A hui hou.
* Gladys Baisa holds the council seat for the Upcountry residency area. She is the chair of the Water Resources Committee. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Visit mauicounty.us for more information.