Upcountry Maui residents frustrated over decades-long wait for county-issued water meters

With the ongoing shortage of water comes ongoing frustration because the county continues to withhold new water meters for homes and businesses.
Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 7:19 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 2, 2021 at 7:42 PM HST

UPCOUNTRY (HawaiiNewsNow) - Beginning on Friday, Maui County is banning all non-essential water use in Upcountry because of continuing drought on the island.

The county said Piiholo Water Treatment Plant’s raw water reservoir in Olinda is well below 50% capacity.

Officials said residents who use water for non-essential purposes will face a $500 fine.

Because of the water shortage, there is also a major backlog of county-issued water meters.

“This property has been in my family for five generations. My great-grandfather acquired 250 acres up here and it’s been handed down through our families throughout the generations,” said Makawao resident, Tina Boteilho.

Boteilho wants to build a dream home for her and her family on their land off Olinda Road. But even if she did right now, she won’t be able to get water from the county system.

“When I came home from college in California, I went to the Water Department, and I applied — that was in 2005,” she said.

Boteilho is not alone. In fact, she is just one out of 1,508 Upcountry Maui property owners on the waitlist for county-issued meters.

The person currently first on the waitlist applied in 2002.

The county said the average wait time for a water meter for Upcountry residents is 20 years. They said the waitlist began in 1994.

“It’s very disappointing, it’s very disheartening,” Boteilho said.

The county said frequent drought conditions created a shortage of reliable surface water in the Upcountry area. The county provides treated surface water to homes and businesses.

Boteilho said the current waitlist is unacceptable and urged county officials to find a better solution.

“I’ve been on the list since 2005. How is it that all these developments are coming up around me? But I cannot build a simple home for my family?” she said. “Take care of the local people first.”

The director of Maui County’s Water Department agreed to do an interview with Hawaii News Now explaining the backlog. But Mayor Michael Victorino’s staff intervened and canceled the interview.

City officials said they are concerned and seeking more sources of water but offered no timeline for when things will improve.

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