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State water commission considers ability to act during emergency situations

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Hawaiʻi has faced drought conditions and potential water shortages this summer. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Commission on Water Resource Management has been monitoring rainfall across the state.

A water shortage watch, like the one in the vicinity of Pearl Harbor on Oʻahu, involves zero cutbacks.

But commissioners are considering what it may take to declare an emergency.

Katie Roth, a planner with the commission, told the body that there are ongoing conversations with the attorney general’s office about what triggers are needed for an emergency rule.

"Unfortunately, I think we need to continue with the process of rulemaking because if we don't do it by rule, we could potentially open ourselves up to contested cases," Roth said.

"That being said, we do recognize the need to respond to these types of situations which are emergencies. In the case of Pearl Harbor, we've hit that trigger for drought conditions. But we also recognize that the Red Hill fuel leak is also exacerbating and compounding that threat of future water shortage," she added.

"So we are actively looking into clarifying within HRS (Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes) and our admin rules to add the ability to make decisions during emergency situations involving water contamination," Roth said.

The state is currently meeting with water users like the Honolulu Board of Water Supply to collect usage data.

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