HONOLULU – On Tuesday, the State Commission on Water Resource Management (Water Commission or CWRM) amended interim instream flow standards (IIFS) for twelve streams and tributaries in the Huelo region of East Maui, and reserved water for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL).
The action follows four years of work by Water Commission staff, including hundreds of days of fieldwork in the region to develop an improved understanding of the hydrology, ecology, and community uses of the streams. Additionally, Water Commission staff explored how modifications to the East Maui Irrigation system can better protect instream uses.
Staff work also focused on the need to better characterize climate change impacts to freshwater resources and the potential implication for non-instream uses, including the domestic water needs of the general public and agriculture in the Central Valley of Maui.
“This Commission action is a first step in seeking balance and equity for these streams that have been diverted for over 100 years,” said Deputy Director Kaleo Manuel.
November was the 5th straight month CWRM hydrologist Dr. Ayron Strauch presented to the Water Commission on water-related issues in East Maui. On Tuesday, he reiterated how modifications to the East Maui Irrigation System will enhance downstream habitat and upstream connectivity for native stream biota by keeping approximately 40% of the water in the streams. Strauch added that the IIFS will provide for registered riparian uses, recreational uses, and improvements to the estuary and nearshore ecosystem.
The next step is for East Maui Irrigation to submit necessary permitting to construct modifications. CWRM staff will also be holding quarterly meetings to bring stakeholders affected by the East Maui Irrigation system together to discuss implementation of the interim instream flow standards, and the water needs of Maui’s Department of Water Supply, DHHL, Mahi Pono, and the community at large.
“I’m so proud of our work over the past eight years for holistic water resource management between our agency – DLNR & CWRM – and communities, by protecting native forests to replenish our aquifers and establishing instream flow standards on streams,” said Chair Suzanne Case.
During the Ige administration, a total of 87 instream flow standards were established across 56 watersheds, and 18.435 million gallons per day (MGD) of non-potable water were reserved for DHHL by the Water Commission.