Hawai'i County water users in North Kona have been under tight restrictions since January. Nearly 40 percent of the wells serving that area are currently out of service. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken talked to county officials about plans for a short-term fix as well as a long-term solution.
North Kona users have been on a twenty five percent cutback since January because of four failed wells. Sunday’s shutdown of the Honokohau Well brought even more draconian restrictions. But some relief should come soon. Department Head Keith Okamoto says spare parts for a Waimea well are being used for Honokohau.
“Our Honokohau Well is critical, two million gallons per day, one of the largest wells in the system. It serves a large area, from Keopu to Kalaoa and everything in between. We are hopeful that we can get it back online the early part of next week.”
The next priority will be the Palani and Hualalai wells. Each pumps around one and a half million gallons per day. Parts should be in by the end of August, and contractors will start installation.
Okamoto said the six well failures in the last year have been with equipment from different vendors. The failures have come as soon as a day to two years after installation.
“We haven’t figured out the common thread yet. Procurement law states that we take the lowest responsive bidder so long as they meet the qualifications. They have proven reliability in the past, so we’re not quite sure why they’re failing.”
Okamoto says they have hired two outside experts to assess the problems.
The Hawai'i County Department of Water Supply is under control of a volunteer water board. Hilo-based contractor Craig Takamine is the chair.
“Now is the time to look at a detailed assessment of our deep wells and pumping equipment, tap into a group such as the American Water Works Association, a resource for research. There’s gotta be other areas in the world that face same situation and are pumping from the same depths”
Neither Takamine nor Okamoto were able to comment on any impact on water rates.
For now, the ten thousand county water customers in North Kona must use water only for health and safety, and stop all irrigation.