Published in The Maui News, August 28, 2016
By GLADYS BAISA, for The Maui News
There’s good news for consumers of the county’s water systems.
The Maui County Council and the Arakawa administration have teamed up to allow residents, including those on the Upcountry water meter list, to more easily secure approval for additional household appliances known as water fixture units, or plumbing units, as recently reported in The Maui News (“County program seeks to chip away at water meter list,” Aug. 18).
Previously, homeowners had generally been limited to 31 water fixture units – such as sinks, toilets, bathtubs, washing machines and dishwashers – for each water meter. In the fiscal year 2017 budget, which took effect last month, the council raised the cap by eight, to 39 units, for homes with 5/8-inch water meters.
Before this change, homeowners seeking to make improvements would have to consider trying to obtain either an additional water meter or a larger water meter. Either option would result in fees of more than $12,000 – cost-prohibitive for most families.
Even those who could afford new or expanded water meters could be stymied from progressing with home improvements if they were on the Upcountry list.
The new flexibility will make a difference in our community. With additional water fixture units, more residents will be able to provide accommodations for their family members or other working residents seeking affordable housing.
The budget ordinance also provides that structures with 3/4-inch water meters are allowed an additional 14 water fixture units, for a total of 67, and those with 1-inch water meters are allowed an additional 32, for a total of 160.
At the Aug. 17 Water Resources Committee meeting, the Department of Water Supply said 27 applications for additional water fixture units have been processed since July 1, with nine from Central Maui and 18 from Upcountry. I look forward to hearing about more applications as awareness continues to grow.
Along with my colleagues on the committee and with the assistance of Water Supply Director David Taylor, I’m exploring additional means of providing relief to the 1,800 users on the Upcountry list. Please send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The committee is, of course, also looking at other ways to improve the county’s overall capability to provide a safe, reliable and affordable supply of water to consumers. To that end, I intend for the committee to consider legislation on backflow prevention.
Backflow is the reversal of the flow of water or mixtures of water and other substances into the distribution pipes of a potable water system, resulting in contamination. Backflow prevention is a constant concern of any public water system, and the council needs to ensure the Department of Water Supply has the laws and regulations in place to provide the strongest prevention mechanisms.
The American Backflow Prevention Association is putting on its annual Western Region Backflow Conference next month in Las Vegas. I will seek to obtain information and recommendations from the conference as we gather ideas for amending the Maui County Code.
A hui hou.
* Gladys Baisa holds the council seat for the Upcountry Maui 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.