WAILUKU – If you ask Department of Water Supply Director Dave Taylor what keeps him awake at night, he might think of something lurking in the depths of a 647-foot-long tunnel.
A single, aging pump, accessible only by descending to the very bottom of “Shaft 33,” a 65-year-old well above Wailuku, is responsible for delivering more than 5 million gallons of water per day to Central and South Maui. If the pump were to fail, thousands of residents could be without water until it was repaired – and that would be a long wait, he said.
“This kind of thing would be very, very hard to fix,” he said. “It’s difficult even to get to.”
While voters clamor for the county to provide more water to a growing population – and politicians promise to deliver it – Taylor said one of his biggest jobs will be to remind people that the county first needs to take care of the water customers it already serves. And that can take a lot of time and money in a system that includes more than 750 miles of pipelines; infrastructure located deep in mountainous jungles; and century-old water intakes and ditches that must integrate with state-of-the-art treatment plants.
“All the discussion is about expanding service,” he said. “There’s very little discussion about what it takes to keep reliable service to existing customers.”
Calling Shaft 33 one of the system’s weakest links, Taylor said it’s imperative that the county continue a project that is already under way to replace the aging well with three smaller, modern ones tapping into the same aquifer.
PAIA – The state Commission on Water Resource Management will hold two days of hearings starting Wednesday on competing applications for withdrawal of water from Na Wai Eha, the surface water collection system that serves Central and South Maui.
During earlier proceedings, the commission received applications from existing users to continue withdrawing water pending a final commission decision on allocating the water resource. Most of the applications have been challenged because there likely will be less water allocated by the commission than the total of present withdrawals, even before applications for new uses are considered.
Starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Paia Community Center, the commission will hear testimony from users to justify the reasonable and beneficial uses they intend for water.
The commission staff will present a new map, which graphically represents the users’ locations and the ditches and gates where they seek to draw off the water. Commission staff member Roy Hardy said the map should help sort out exactly which applications are in conflict.
Two commissioners, Neal Fujiwara and Sumner Erdman, will conduct the hearings.