HONOLULU (KHON2) — New development could be coming to an end soon in Honolulu. That’s the warning from the Honolulu Board of Water Supply as the continued shutdown of the Halawa Shaft and two other wells is creating an anticipated summer water shortage.
BWS says it is the perfect drought scenario, with three wells shut down because of the Navy’s Red Hill fuel spill, two major pumping stations under repair, and La Nina, which could have a dry effect on the islands in the spring and summer months.
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In this scenario, BWS has the authority to restrict water use by any means or method. BWS leadership told the Hawaii State Senate committees on Health, as well as Water and Land that one step includes stopping new construction permits.
“How do we keep providing safe dependable water service to them during this period of time. How do we balance that with growth, increasing demand on our system,” BWS Chief Engineer Ernest Lau told the committees.
Industry leaders tell KHON2 that they’re willing to work with BWS to help public health above all, but this could put more stress on the island’s affordable housing crisis.
“It definitely impacts that there are projects out there currently that are in that affordable, meet that affordable demand, and how those are impacted is concerning,” Honolulu Board of Realtors President Chad Takesue said.
As developers look at ways to decrease water use with efficient fixtures, appliances, or water catchment, problems with increased costs could follow.
“It is going to make the projects more expensive but if they’re going to proceed we’re going to have to minimize the impacts of increasing water on our existing water system,” Lau said.
Lack of inventory would likely lead to higher prices across the resale market, which we’ve seen over the course of the pandemic as a lack of homes on the open market and low-interest rates have raised the median price of a home in Honolulu to $1,125,000, a 22.6% rise from 2021.
“We’re already facing a deficit of meeting the housing needs, Takesue said. “So this just puts you further back, which then makes the resale market impacted because that demand has to absorb some inventory. And if it’s a limited supply, and it’s just a resale market, it really definitely drives pricing,”
BWS says there’s still time to avoid this scenario if Oahu residents work to cut down on their water use and adhere to the voluntary 10% reduction in use.
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In the long-term, BWS is also working to increase supply by drilling 5 to 6 new wells in Waimalu and Pearl City to replace the three wells that are indefinitely shut down due to Red Hill. They’re seeking an emergency proclamation from Governor David Ige to help expedite that process.