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Honolulu Board of Water Supply asks 420,000 residents to voluntarily conserve water

Honolulu Board of Water Supply building.
Sophia McCullough
Honolulu Board of Water Supply building.

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply is urging Oʻahu residents in the Aiea-Hālawa and Urban Honolulu areas to reduce their water use by 10% in anticipation of a dry summer season.

This applies to an estimated 420,000 customers from Hālawa to Hawaiʻi Kai, including residents, businesses, hospitals and schools.

The call Thursday was prompted in part by less than normal rainfall, as well as the continued shut down of three key wells in Hālawa following fuel contamination of the U.S. Navy water system. The BWS has been pumping its other wells longer and harder to make up for the lost supply.

Petroleum from the Red Hill storage facility hasn't gotten into the tap water distributed by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply. But it did get into the shared aquifer that sits underneath the storage tanks.

Ernie Lau, manager and chief engineer for the Board of Water Supply, says even if the weather brings more rain later this year, the island’s aquifers need time to rebuild storage capacity.

"We are concerned that as we enter summer, which we know it will definitely be drier, that water demand will overtake our available supply," he said Thursday.

"When that happens that could lead to localized areas of our water system, our customers suffering disruptions to their water services. That could be manifested in the form of lower water pressure at times. And then if it really gets bad and our tanks go dry, then there are customers that may not even have water for periods of time and that’s what we’re trying to avoid," Lau said.

Lau says this plea to conserve water is entirely voluntary, but that the agency is prepared to issue mandatory conservation orders to ensure the system has enough supply to provide everyone with water.

Residents should be mindful of water use in their daily activities, including taking shorter showers, not letting the faucet run, and watering lawns and gardens before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m.

Lau said “it would be a great thing” if the rest of Oʻahu would also reduce their use by 10% even though the shutdown of the three wells doesn't directly affect their water supply.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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