Friday | November 24, 2017
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2 North Kona deep wells return to service, easing water restrictions

KAILUA-KONA — After nearly two months of severe water restrictions, the Department of Water Supply announced Tuesday morning that deep wells at Hualalai and Palani are back in service. Because of that, restrictions for North Kona water customers will ease.

Keith Okamoto, DWS manager and chief engineer, wrote in an email to West Hawaii Today on Tuesday that the department reverted back to the “regular water restriction” first imposed in January, which mandates customers reduce usage by 25 percent.

Three inoperative wells remain in North Kona’s 13-source system, so while the harshest stipulations of the emergency water restrictions — such as the prohibition of non-commercial irrigation — were lifted, some usage limits remain.

Okamoto said DWS is hopeful another well can be brought back online by the end of this month and knock the mandatory restriction down to a conservation request.

“Honokohau well repair is targeted for completion at the end of October,” Okamoto wrote. “When that happens, we will downgrade to voluntary water conservation (10 percent reduction).”

Kona residents were predictably pleased by the news Tuesday, but haven’t forgotten they’re still under water restrictions.

“I’m glad to hear they’re back on, but it’s about time,” said Chuck Peterson, who’s lived in Kona on and off all his life. “I think it’s pretty unreasonable to have so many wells down at the same time and that it’s taken so long to get any sort of help.”

Two separate audits were commissioned to get to the bottom of issues that still rest heavily on minds throughout the community, one by the Hawaii County Water Board and another by the County Council.

Council members Dru Kanuha and Karen Eoff drafted a resolution in September to commission a performance audit by the county’s legislative auditor, Bonnie Nims. The resolution passed 9-0, though the decision on whether to pursue an audit is essentially Nims’. If the audit is carried out, it likely will focus more on backup equipment procurement and contingency plans moving forward to protect the system against such pervasive failures in the future.

The Water Board created an action group to take a more technical look at the problem, which will nevertheless include examination of backups and contingencies.

The group is comprised of 12 individuals — two from DWS, four from the Water Board and six from the private sector. Members of the private sector include engineers and managers of private water systems around the island, particularly at Four Seasons Resort, Hualalai. The group met in its entirety for the first time Monday.

“The … experts were selected to participate due to their extensive knowledge of pumps and well equipment,” said Water Board Chairman Craig Takamine. “The group is focused on completion and presentation of a final report to the Water Board and the DWS in the coming months.”

Takamine previously indicated that it’s unlikely any policy changes are enacted before the end of the year.

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