Extreme drought dries up farmer's profits

Grant Hamachi
Grant Hamachi
Clifford Migita
Clifford Migita

By Mari-Ela David bio | email

WAIMANALO (KHNL) - Farmers on Windward Oahu are suffering from the extreme drought conditions on East Oahu.

The state has issued mandatory water cutbacks for those who use the Waimanalo irrigation system, which means customers must reduce water use by 30%.

For farmers, that means a 30% loss in crops and profits.

Mother Nature has cast a dry spell that has Waimanalo's reservoir nearly empty. With little rain filling the Waimanalo reservoir, farmers who rely on it for water are forced to plant less.

"I have some crops that I'm not planting, like bananas. I can slow down on that and concentrate mostly on my vegetable crops," said Grant Hamachi, a farmer.

Extreme drought has forced the state to trigger a Mandatory Conservation Measure. Farmers using the Waimanalo irrigation system can only tap into it three days a week, from mornings to afternoons. The Department of Agriculture says the reservoir level is down to just 17 feet. If it drops four more feet, farmers say the system could dry out .

"The drain pipes at the bottom are at 13 feet. So once you reach 13 feet, water won't flow into the pipes and they can't have the pipe low because you're sucking all the mud and silt on the bottom," said Clifford Migita, the President of the Waimanalo Agriculture Association.

Farmers say they've been through severe drought before, but they say this time, the drought is about two months early.

While the water restriction is drying up some of their business, farmers say they must sacrifice some of their crops now to prevent losing more in the future.

What's aggravating the problem is the Waimanalo irrigation system is leaking. Governor Linda Lingle has released money to fix it, but Migita says it'll be another year before repairs are done.