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BWS begins alerting ‘shocked’ developers their projects could be delayed by water woes

The Board of Water Supply is notifying Oahu developers that construction projects may be delayed because of water restrictions linked to the Navy crisis.
Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 3:34 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 14, 2022 at 3:03 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Board of Water Supply is notifying Oahu developers that construction projects may be delayed because of water restrictions linked to the Navy crisis.

BWS has sent 17 letters to developers in Urban Honolulu.

The agency is bracing for restrictions because Halawa shaft remains shut down in a bid to prevent contamination from the Navy system from spreading to the public one. “We only have half the supply that we normally would,” said Ernie Lau, BWS manager and chief engineer.

In its letter, BWS told developers “we cannot confirm the adequacy of the Honolulu water system to accommodate the proposed redevelopment (development).”

The projects that may be impacted include:

  • The Queen’s Medical Center’s Punchbowl campus redevelopment;
  • Kamehameha Schools’ Kaiaulu O Kakaako Master Plan;
  • a North Nimitz hotel;
  • and a slew of commercial properties and affordable housing projects.

“The response we are getting from developers is they are shocked,” said Lau.

Lau told HNN the rail project will go forward, but transit oriented development could be impacted.

Other state projects that could be impacted include the Aloha Stadium redevelopment project and the relocation of Oahu Community Correctional Center.

With dry summers, Lau says there’s a steep rise in water demand projected over the next five years and he’s been meeting with developers about the issue.

The projected new water demand over the next three years is roughly 2.5 million gallons per day.

New demand five years and beyond is 5.4 million gallons per day.

“They are concerned about the situation because they are investing a lot of money into their projects,” Lau said. “A final determination will be at the time of building permit and we basically said there is no moratorium at this time.”

The Queen’s Medical Center gets all of its water from its own well.

“We’re currently measuring the amount of water our well can produce to determine if the expansion will continue to be supported by our well,” said Jason Chang, president of The Queen’s Medical Center, in a statement.

“We all need to work together collectively and decisively to ensure that Oahu has sufficient water to meet the current and future needs of our community,” said Darren Pai, Kamehameha Schools spokesman, in an email.

On Monday, Mayor Rick Blangiardi said the city is working with BWS and he’s confident affordable housing projects can move forward.

“I spoke with the carpenters union. We are looking long term,” said Blangiardi.

“Just this past week, we’ve issued $6 million to Ernie to reopen the Haleiwa wells,” he added.

Lau says the funding for the North Shore well will help BWS redirect more money toward drilling wells exploring for new water sources to help supply Halawa to Hawaii Kai.

In a multi-year process, Lau says it’ll cost $20 million to drill up to six exploratory wells and it would cost $100 million to build a new well.

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