Hawai'i County water users in the North Kona District are being asked to cut back on their water use. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken explains what's going on, and how long the restrictions will last.
Hawai'i County Department of Water Supply asked in January that North Kona water users cut back their usage by 25 percent.
This affects more than 10,000 customers—probably twenty to thirty-five thousand individuals—in the area between Teshima's Restaurant, Makalei Fire Station, and Kona International Airport.
The head of the Department, Keith Okamoto, explains:
"In Kona, we have 13 wells. Seven that tap the high level source above Mamalahoa Highway and six wells that tap the basal source which is that fresh water lens floating on the salt water. Out of the 7 high level wells, 4 of them are currently out of service."
Okamoto says having so many wells out of service at the same time is unusual, but wells generally need major repair or replacement after 6 or 7 years.
Keith: "Due to the elevation, the horsepower, the amount of water they have to pump, they're under a lot of stress. The four wells we have out of service are Hualālai, Palani, Waiaha and Keopu. These are high performance engines, with no ability to maintain them down hole cause they're a quarter of a mile down below the earth's surface."
Okamoto says each well must be custom designed.
Keith: "They are not off the shelf type units. Each one has to be custom ordered and manufactured to spec. Typically one of these wells could take as long as 6 to 7 months, even with expedited shipping"
Okamoto says one well should be back in service by July, but the other three won't be up and running until the end of 2017. Okamoto says repair costs are already built into water rates, so the $200 thousand to $300 thousand dollars per well should not at this time impact user rates."