Thank you for joining us. Upcountry Maui residents are currently facing a grim situation with a stage 2 water shortage.
This is the first time the county has declared a stage 2 shortage, and it is frustrating for residents as there seems to be no solution in sight. Our reporter, Shaenfield, has the full story. For many Upcountry residents, a water shortage is not a new issue. Councilmember Yuki Lei acknowledges that residents expect it every summer. However, according to the County Water Department, this problem is relatively new and worsening every year.
In 2009, the county issued a drought watch for Upcountry which lasted for several years. During that time, residents were urged to reduce water usage by 20%, but in October 2013, this was reduced to 10%. Rainfall helped refill reservoirs favorably until April 2017 when a stage 1 water shortage was declared, which lasted until October. This pattern continued and became an annual occurrence from 2019 onwards. Under stage 2, residents are required to discontinue using water for irrigation, lawn watering, car washing, and non-essential activities.
The Pe Hollow Reservoir, which supplies water to residents, can hold up to 50 million gallons. However, the water levels fluctuate daily.
During the first week of November, it has averaged anywhere from 30 million gallons to being completely full since 2010. However, this year, it dropped to 14 million gallons, which is less than 30% of its capacity. The water director informed Shaenfield that more people are watering their yards due to the fear of fires, which has increased water usage to approximately 8 million gallons per day upcountry.
Of that, 25% goes to agriculture, leaving about 6 million gallons for residential use. To address this issue, a partnership between the county and the state land department is underway to establish a new water source near King Cake. However, there are complications involving a leak, a school, and an old consent decree that may need to be revisited.
The consent decree, put in place many years ago, restricts districts facing water shortages from accessing additional water. Shaenfield believes that this decree should be reconsidered, especially with droughts becoming more frequent. The process of establishing the new water source at King Cake may take a few months, provided the other council members approve it.
However, there may be a potential increase in water rates and real property tax rates as a result. Despite this, it is crucial for the county to thoroughly evaluate all the recent events and make necessary changes..