Friday, December 7, 2007

Proposed Changes to State Water Plan

As promised, here’s a synopsis of proposed revisions to the Hawaii Water Resource Protection Plan.

Hearings are set for tonight on Kauai (6 p.m. Civic Center) and all next week around the state, or you can submit written comments to the Commission on Water Resource Management, State Department of Land and Natural Resources, PO Box 621, Honolulu, Hawaii 96809 through Jan 11.

One thing that immediately jumped out at me is that all the action points made reference to the Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM) “should” do this or thar rather than “will.” Maybe it’s just semantics, but so often there’s a big gap between what government should do, and what it actually does, especially when it's dealing with proposals that cost some serious money.

All the proposals have been prioritized for short term (within five years) and long term (beyond that) implementation.

Overall, it seems the state is (finally!) trying to get a handle on Hawaii’s existing water resources, as well as both current and historical usage. It proposes doing this by better monitoring of wells, springs and surface water sources, and as its data collection program.

Part of that proposal calls for more aggressively seeking data on ground water use from the growing number of private well owners, and creating a system for reporting surface water use, starting with large irrigation users.

The state is also proposing to improve its estimates of water resource availability by collecting and sharing more rainfall data, creating a standardized estimate of natural recharge processes, collecting baseline stream data and most important, adopting the long overdue interim instream flow standards, which establish how much water must be left in a stream so it can function properly from an environmental standpoint.

It also wants to begin investigating the potential impacts of long term climate change trends, and proposes developing and implementing water conservation and water shortage programs for state and county agencies, military and business.

It proposes as well exploring ways to reclaim storm water, both to provide non-potable (non-drinkable) water sources and control non-point source pollution.

Exploring watershed protection initiatives is also on the list, although as a longterm project.

It is also considering revoking water use permits that haven’t been in use for four years or longer, which could have an adverse effect on water sources for future farming endeavors. And finally, the state is proposing that it improve its enforcement to ensure that people aren’t using more water than their permit allows.

For the meat of the document, check out the Priority Recommendations and Implementation Plan.

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