Water in South Hawaii

Everyone needs fresh water.  Its almost silly to state that obvious fact, but living as many do in cities with cheap public utilities at their disposal, one can easily learn to take this most essential of needs for granted.  Much of South Hawaii presently does not have access to county water lines.  Even where municipal water lines are accessible, as in some locations on the southeastern region, it can be difficult and expensive to run a water line to hook up to meter at a distribution point. You should not assume that public water utilities will service a property that you are buying in Hawaii. Feel free to contact me about the availability of water. 

Alongside some roads in areas like Green Sand Subdivision, (where the photo on the right was taken), you will see water lines that run from a meter access point to a residence or farm.  Runs of pipe like this often sustain damage and require repair by the home owner. An interesting side affect of this type of distribution is that the water may be quite warm by the time it reaches the home. It is an inadvertent solar water heater. 

If you are not lucky enough to have county water available to you (and most people in South Hawaii are not), you can rely on a catchment system to collect your fresh water.  There are very few wells in the region and wells may only be dug at great expense through the solid lava. Permanent streams are not found in this area. This leaves us with catching rain and/or hauling water via truck or containers.  Roof rain catching systems are extremely common in the region. Water is collected from the roof (usually a metal roof) and piped to a large holding tank.  These tanks can take several forms.  The tank most often seen is constructed from corrugated steel panels. A "food grade" plastic liner is usually used in the tank. A cover is required to keep out debris and animals and to reduce the amount of light entering the tank to control algae. 

To the left is a typical water catchment tank. The corrugated steel frame holds a plastic liner and sits on a layer of sand. The top cover allows water in but reduces sunlight and debris accumulation. This tank is too full.  The cover should not be allowed to dip into the water. The pump is housed in the small shed next to this tank.

Tanks range in size from a few hundred to over 20,000 gallons. There are county regulations that mandate a minimum amount of storage that must be maintained per person in a dwelling.  The tank water is usually siphoned to an electrical  pump and associated pressure tank. It is filtered before being passed along to the household plumbing. Some people use elaborate filtration systems such as the reverse osmosis type while others choose simple cartridge filters.  There are numerous recommendations that you should follow to help make sure that your catchment water is safe to use.  An excellent book is available from the University of Hawaii that will help you better understand and maintain your catchment system.

You can download the 52 page book at: http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/RM-12.pdf   (5 meg)

If you intend to use a catchment system PLEASE READ THIS BOOK and pay close attention to all of its recommendations regarding testing and treatment.  The state considers the use of catchment water to be the personal responsibility of the homeowner and states clearly that it does not consider catchment water to be potable (drinkable).

For more information visit the State Drinking Water Branch here.

Some people buy bottled water for drinking, and others go to one of several public county water spigots and haul their water home in large containers. 

Public "Emergency" water spigots like this one are available in Waiohinu and at the Hookena Beach turn off on Highway 11.  The distance between these two facilities is about 32 miles!!  The water at these "watering holes" is treated and specified as safe for consumption. 

There are also several commercial water hauling services that bring water to your home in tanker trucks. Generally these services deliver about 4000 to 5000 gallons.  Of course, you need some place for them to put all this water, probably a catchment tank, but perhaps to a tank that does not collect roof water. The cost of this service will depend on your location, but you can be assured that it is expensive.  A 4500 gallon delivery might cost $150 or more. 

NEWS! It looks like a public water source will become available in Hawaiian Ocean View Estate at some time in the not too distant future. Read about progress reports on the near the bottom of this County Department of Water Supply page. 


If you are driving many miles for water or paying a lot of money to have it delivered, you will probably soon find yourself looking for ways to conserve this precious resource.  Watering lawns, weekly car washes, and other excesses that you may have been used to, will be the first things to go.  The Department of Land and Natural Resources has an excellent website regarding drought in Hawaii and includes links to conservation tips.

Final Words About Water

I don't want to frighten you with this discussion of water issues in South Hawaii.  Thousands of people do live here in good health.  The fact is that everyone, everywhere, should be serious about their water usage and water quality.  Here, many of us have simply been forced to think a bit more about it.  This is a good thing; something that puts you in touch with the 'aina, the land.  I encourage you to do your own research and make your decisions about water based what you find.

An extensive report was commissioned to study the water needs of South Hawaii from South Point to Hookena.  This report is full of great information and deserves your close attention.  Note this report is 10 megs in size!

Unless otherwise noted all content of this website is copyrighted 2005 by Andrea Lee Peace
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