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Board of Water Supply says restrictions may be necessary amid dry weather and fuel contamination

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

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply says fuel contamination in the Navy’s Pearl Harbor water distribution system is affecting the island’s water supply as a whole — and more restrictions may be necessary if the weather does not cooperate.

Board of Water Supply Manager and Chief Engineer Ernie Lau told state lawmakers that rising salt levels have been detected in its Beretania Well in Honolulu.

Lau says that’s due to increased pumping at the Beretania Well after the utility had to shut down its Halawa Shaft due to fears of fuel contamination from Red Hill. That and a dry rainy season so far have contributed to rising salt levels.

Lau says that with the Halawa Shaft shut down indefinitely, it puts increased strain on their other wells.

"But if those other wells experience increasing saltiness levels in the water that we’re pumping from the underground aquifer, then we know we have to reduce the amount we pump to preserve the quality and integrity of that water source," Lau said.

The utility has called for a voluntary reduction in water usage of 10%.

Compounding the problem is a lack of rainfall during what is traditionally the state’s rainy season.

Water supply officials say if the state does not see significant rain in the next four to six weeks, it will signify dry conditions for the rest of the year.

That could trigger mandatory water restrictions, and could curb development as the water utility would be unable to guarantee enough water for new construction projects.

The Board of Water Supply says it will consider a request by state lawmakers to prioritize affordable housing if new development projects are curtailed because of water shortages.

Scott Kim was a news editor at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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