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A potential water shortage could impact new Oʻahu housing projects

While some water filters are designed to screen out potentially deadly lead, many filters and bottled water with added minerals simply improve the taste of water.
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Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, Board of Water Supply Chief Engineer Ernie Lau and Gov. David Ige were scheduled to meet this week to talk about a potential water shortage on Oʻahu.

Lau says rising salt levels have been detected in its Beretania Well due to increased pumping after the utility shut down its Halawa Shaft amid fears of fuel contamination from Red Hill. Compounding the problem is a lack of rainfall during what is traditionally the rainy season.

In anticipation of a possible shortage, the Board of Water Supply has asked residents to voluntarily cut back on their water use. It also warned lawmakers that the situation could impact new construction on the island.

Senate Health Committee Chair Jarrett Keohokalole says that could include a suspension of new water meters — which could halt some new housing projects.

“Everything we’ve heard from the Board of Water Supply up to this point leads us to expect at some point or another, they might have to seriously consider a moratorium on new water meters. That's how bad the situation is. I do think that there are a number of steps that need to happen before we get there, but if we ever do cross that line, there are a lot of unanswered questions about how we proceed going forward," he said.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi says he’s concerned about “sending a message to the development community” about a potential delay in projects, saying it’s “premature to make that call.”

Keohokalole has written a letter to the Board of Water Supply urging that affordable housing projects be given priority if a moratorium on new developments is implemented.

This interview aired on The Conversation on April 4, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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