Maui News

“Historic” drought conditions in Maui County accompanied by record low stream flow

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Wailuku River. PC: DLNR Hawaiʻi.

State officials are describing current drought conditions in Maui County as “historic,” and are advising people to take immediate action to reduce water use.

“Most of Hawai‘i is beginning to experience drought conditions, during the time of year when rain is normally plentiful and regular,” according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Officials with the State Commission of Water Resource Management say a significant lack of rainfall across the island has resulted in a lack of groundwater recharge and surface flow at streams and rivers.

“Normal wet season rainfall has not materialized and streams that are normally gushing with water are barely flowing. This is deepening our already grave concerns about the effects of seasonal drought on water supplies,” said CWRM Deputy Kaleo Manuel.

Video: DLNR Hawaiʻi

State officials say the County of Maui’s municipal water supply is heavily reliant on surface flow to meet the potable water demands of the Upcountry, Central Valley, and West Maui regions. DLNR reports that the lack of streamflow will directly affect water supply for these areas.

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“Additionally, many communities on Maui are reliant on surface flow for domestic water supply, agricultural irrigation, and for growing kalo. A lack of wet season rainfall will also signal potential consequences for water supplies in the traditional, upcoming dry season,” according to a DLNR press release.

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Continuously monitored streamflow stations across the state are flowing at record low rates, with some approaching the lowest flows ever recorded. Drought conditions, as reported by the US Drought Monitor show nearly the entire state in some level of drought, with all eight of the Main Hawaiian Islands experiencing at least moderate drought.

The northwestern tips of Kaua’i and Maui are currently in severe drought.

The only exceptions are a small slice in the center of Hawai‘i Island, described as abnormally dry, and the east side of Hawai‘i island, as the only place in the state, not currently experiencing drought conditions. 

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ʻOheʻo Stream at Kīpahulu in East Maui has stopped flowing above the area sometimes referred to as “Seven Sacred Pools”ʻ and Kaluanui Stream near Punalu‘u on O‘ahu has stopped flowing completely. Streamflow from North and South Kaukonahua streams into Lake Wilson is currently below 0.64 million gallons per day (mgd), threatening agricultural uses along the north shore.  

Streamflows. PC: DLNR Hawaiʻi
Honokōhau Stream. PC: DLNR Hawaiʻi

“As we enter, the more typically dry summer months, and without significant precipitation in the next few months, Hawai‘i could be in store for devastating wildfires this year. We are seeing this consequence of global climate change, played out on many fronts, including fire seasons that are now year around,” said Michael Walker, the State Fire Manager with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife in a department press release. He said it’s important that people become educated now about how to prevent wildfires, which indirectly have impacts on water supplies, when native vegetation burns in forest watersheds. 

CWRM is recommending water conservation measures that include: the elimination of landscape irrigation, car and truck washing, and reductions in home water use such as shorter showers and not running the faucet continuously when brushing your teeth. 

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