Water Allocation Years in the Making

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DHHL's 80-year-old Hoʻolehua Water System is undergoing a badly needed $37 million capital improvement project to upgrade its storage and distribution. The system serves more than 2,400 customers on Molokaʻi. - Photo: Courtesy

There are very few subjects within the Hawaiian community that elicit universal agreement. Equitable access to water is one of them, and it is a topic that is central to the implementation of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.

In 1993, DHHL filed a water user permit application for a half-million gallons of potable water. That year, Molokaʻi Ranch and the Maui Department of Water Supply also filed applications for water from the same Kualapuʻu Aquifer System.

As a result of that competition, and a contested case request by Molokaʻi Ranch that was later withdrawn, DHHL’s ability to access potable water to meet the needs of its beneficiaries stalled for nearly 30 years.

In July 2021, the Hawaiʻi Commission on Water Resources Management approved a permit request from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to allocate just over a half-million gallons of water per day to supply new and existing uses of Hawaiian Home Lands on Molokaʻi.

The decision will allow DHHL to provide sufficient potable water to existing homestead lots while maintaining consistent delivery of water to critical services that benefit all residents. More importantly, the increase in water allocation will allow DHHL to proceed with the development of new homesteads for applicants on the Waiting List.

CWRM’s approval is timely for several DHHL’s Molokaʻi projects.

The Department’s 80-year-old Hoʻolehua Water System is undergoing a $37 million capital improvement project to upgrade its storage, distribution, and efficiency capabilities. The system currently serves more than 2,400 customers, including the post office, schools, the airport, and about 500 homesteads in Hoʻolehua-Pālāʻau, Kalamaʻula, and Moʻomomi.

The allocation will provide sufficient water to establish 171 new homestead service connections and up to 210 new service connections for subdivided homestead lots.

DHHL is also completing environmental compliance documents as it begins to improve 58 homestead lots in the Nāʻiwa Agricultural Subdivision and is developing an additional 20 agricultural homestead lots in Hoʻolehua.

The Department completed beneficiary consultations and updated the Regional Plan for the island in 2020.

This recent CWRM decision is an important step in affirming the Native Hawaiian rights to water that are codified in the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.