Maui News

New outlook shows Maui County may get a break from the worst drought in state

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A view from Keokea overlooks South Maui. PC: Kehaulani Cerizo

A national climate prediction report released Thursday shows relief may be ahead for Maui County, which has been suffering from the worst drought conditions in the state.

Drought will likely be alleviated in Maui County and around Hawaiʻi this month, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s December 2022 Drought Outlook.

County of Maui Water Director Helene Kau said the report was hopeful.

“I was very pleased to see the drought conditions improving,” Kau told Maui Now on Thursday. “I am still always encouraging judicious use of water.”

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Currently, portions of Maui range from abnormally dry, the least severe category, to exceptional drought, the most severe category, according to the US Drought Monitor.

Maui is the only island in the state with exceptional drought conditions, where cattle and certain crops die, and an increased fire danger exists. Māʻalaea and adjacent land, representing 1.36% of the county, is in exceptional drought.

Upcountry and West Maui have been under a County of Maui Stage 1 water shortage since June 30 where people are asked to refrain from using water for irrigation, lawns, washing vehicles or other nonessential activities. A Stage 1 water shortage is declared when anticipated water demand in an area is projected to exceed available water supply by 1% to 15%.

Citing the drought, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation in July asked boaters statewide to reduce water use by 10% at all DLNR facilities and properties, which include harbors.

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In order to conserve water, the state implemented a 50% reduction in water spigots at state harbors, sparking frustration from some local boaters.

The state told Maui Now that spigots will be reinstated once the drought is lifted.

Drought is not new to Maui County, especially Upcountry areas.

In recent years, some months of the wet season offered brief reprieve, only for drought to return for the majority of the year.

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Climate model consensus favors large scale above-average rainfall for the wet season, especially from December through April, according to NOAA’s wet season rainfall outlook for the state released in October. The wet season runs from October to April.

Heavy rainfall may focus on windward slopes, while leeward areas remain dry, the report said.

Similar to last season, drought recovery is more likely on Kauaʻi and Oʻahu, while drought may remain over leeward areas of Maui County and the Big Island.

Kehaulani Cerizo
Kehaulani Cerizo was born and raised on Maui and worked for nearly 15 years as a news reporter, copy editor and features editor at daily newspapers. She earned awards at The Maui News in Wailuku and at Today’s Local News in San Diego.
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