BWS has ambitious goal for tackling water main breaks (and it won't be cheap)

BWS has ambitious goal for tackling water main breaks (and it won't be cheap)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Board of Water Supply has an ambitious new goal aimed at reducing the frequency of water main breaks.

Officials are asking for public input on the plan — along with rate hikes and special subsidies — as officials determine how to pay for improvements to the aging infrastructure.

BWS crews deal with busted pipes on Oahu almost every day.

"We experience about 25 to 30 main breaks a month, that runs us to about 300 or so per year which is the national average," said BWS information officer Kathleen Pahinui.

She said workers currently replace 6 to 10 miles of pipeline annually. The agency hopes to eventually accelerate the replacement, switching out 21 miles of pipeline annually.

"That, of course, requires a certain amount of investment into the system, not just rate payers money, but also bonds and things like that," explained Pahinui. "So we're looking at all options that are available to us to get up to that point."

BWS officials anticipate that it will take a decade for crews to ramp up and reach the new replacement goal. They expect the number of water main breaks to drop to 250 each year.

"You're never not going to have water main breaks because remember, you're only replacing 21 miles of pipe per year, and you have 2,100 miles. It's going to take you quite awhile to replace the entire system," said Pahinui.

She said improvement costs would go up incrementally over time, from an average of $100 to $150 million a year to between $200 and $250 million annually.

The last rate hike was two years ago. Pahinui said the next increase could happen in 2019.

Other topics covered in the new online survey include fees, conservation and sustainability.

"We also have a number of subsidies that we've been asked to look at: for affordable housing, we do one for agriculture already, and also looking at what people either call a lifeline or a low-income rate," said Pahinui.

The online survey is now available here. The initial deadline to respond is Nov. 30.

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