Maui County residents to decide if they want community water authorities

Right now the state Department of Land and Natural Resources is in charge of Hawaii's water. Some residents say it's been mismanaged.
Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 6:50 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 20, 2022 at 9:40 PM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Should Maui County establish community water authorities?

That is what residents will decide this election. Ballots have already started arriving in the mail.

Mary Ann “Kamalani” Pahukoa and her family have been fighting water issues in East Maui for over a century.

“This is a historic opportunity for Maui County. I get emotional just thinking about how many kupuna have led us to today,” Pahukoa said.

Voters will be asked if they want Maui County Community Water Authorities with regional community boards to manage water collection and delivery systems.

Right now, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources is in charge of Hawaii’s water. However, supporters of the charter amendment say the water has been mismanaged and feel large corporations have had too much say in the way water has been controlled, distributed, and diverted.

“This is a once in a generational opportunity to make good, to take away that privatization and foreign control over our public trust resource – water,” Pahukoa said.

While the push has a lot of support, some are worried what Community Water Authorities will actually look like.

“What is the cost? What is this going to cost the taxpayers?” asked Maui County Councilwoman Yuki Lei Sugimura. “Nobody had any answers.”

Sugimura represents Upcountry and does not feel confident in the change because details are still unclear.

“It’s a big deal,” Sugimura said. “Standing up for my residents, the farmers, and ranchers, I say they’re the breadbasket. We have a lot of food that we provide for the community, and to have our water disrupted by something that is unknown, I think is really important.”

There is a “Water Is Life Educational Rally” at the University of Hawaii Maui College this Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 at 10 a.m. for those who want to learn more.