Maui’s Water Wars: The Next Stage

Dec 7, 2015

An old East Maui irrigation ditch.
Credit Will Scullin / Flickr

Eight years ago, the Maui County Council was concerned about the impact of new construction on water supplies. The result was the “Show Me the Water” ordinance—a provision ensuring new subdivisions would have access to water. But now the council is considering repealing the law. From the Maui News, Eileen Chao explains why.

It seems simple enough. Developers looking to build subdivisions in Maui County need to first prove that they have a long-term source of fresh water before they can start building.  But developers say the ordinance has created roadblocks that have only fueled the housing shortage Maui faces today.

The Maui County Council is now considering a bill to repeal the law. Council members say the need for affordable and workforce housing is serious on Maui. But would repealing the ordinance lead to more housing for the people who need it most?

100% affordable housing projects are already exempt from the Show Me the Water act, but those projects are still few and far between.  Residents say repealing the act would only make it easier for developers to build high-priced or luxury developments for Mainland buyers.

A study released last week by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism found that over half the homes sold on Maui since 2008 have gone to out-of-state buyers.  Residents say that drives up housing prices for local families on the island who aren't able to afford the same price tags.