HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Board of Water Supply (BWS) is calling for the immediate need to conserve water in the Aiea-Halawa and Metro Honolulu areas. Customers are asked to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 10%, with there being less water wells and the hot summer months just around the corner.
“We’re still dealing with the crisis created by the Red Hill fuel contamination situation,” said Ernie Lau, BWS Manager and Chief Engineer.
BWS continues to test the five wells closest to the Navy’s fuel facility. Lau wanted to reassure the public that those tests are coming back negative and the water is safe to drink.
In December, BWS shut down one of Oahu’s major sources of drinking water, the Halawa shaft, over concerns of contamination at the Navy’s Red Hill well.
The Halawa shaft supplies nearly 20% of Honolulu’s drinking water — that’s approximately 450,000 urban Honolulu residents. Lau said the Aiea and Halawa wells represent about 50% of their supply capacity. With three water sources shut down, he said it’s time to conserve water.
“We are concerned that as we enter summer that water demand will overtake our available supply,” said Lau.
With less supply, that means BWS has to go to other wells to pump longer and harder, which could have an impact on the quality of the water in the aquifer itself. The saltiness of the water is one of the primary levels they track.
“So what happens when you over-pump, you could start to draw salt water into the wells,” Lau explained. “When we start to see a rise in chloride levels, that’s when we have concern.”
While the 10% reduction in water usage request applies only to the Aiea-Halawa and Metro Honolulu areas, Lau said it would help a great deal if everyone volunteered to do this.
“It’s been very dry this past winter,” said Lau. “We’re just getting a little bit of rain right now, but we are concerned that as we enter summer, which we know it will be definitely drier, that water demand will overtake our available supply.”
This could lead to localized areas experiencing water disruption; some customers may not even have water for periods of time. BWS is trying to prevent this from happening with the voluntary water conservation.
It’s an effort BWS started last month when they announced a new program for those who live in multi-unit homes, such as apartments, townhomes and condos. The program aims to raise awareness for these residents since many of them have their water bill included in utilities.
“Through conservation measures, through our rebate program, our water sensible program, and now water wisdom, it’s going to give our customers another chance to conserve water so there’s more water for everyone,” BWS information specialist Steven Norstrom told KHON2 in February.
BWS is hoping everyone will conserve water to avoid implementing mandatory water restrictions.