Kalapana Without Well Service Until at Least Early Next Year

November 28, 2019, 12:06 PM HST (Updated November 28, 2019, 12:17 PM)
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Roughly 100 households in Kalapana will make due without a working County deepwell until at least early next year.

The Hawai‘i County Department of Water Supply (DWS) issued a water conservation notice for the East Hawai‘i community three days after the second of two area wells failed on Sunday, Nov. 17. The department is requesting a voluntary 10% reduction in water usage.

“The cause of the failure is undetermined,” Jason Armstrong, information and education specialist for DWS, wrote in an email to Big Island Now. “The other Kalapana well pump is currently being repaired.”

The water conservation notice will extend indefinitely, as the timetables for both deepwells to return to service are distant and described in general terms by the department.

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“DWS estimates Keauohana Well B should be operational early next year,” Armstrong said. “Keauohana Well A should be returned to service late next year.”

Armstrong added the timetable for the diagnostics report on Well A is also undetermined, as the cause(s) for the outage remain under investigation.

Parts for Keauohana Well B are on-island and “partial installation has occurred” at the site, Armstrong continued. That deepwell has been offline since May 12, 2017.

While both water sources are down, DWS will continue hauling water to the Kalapana community in tanker trucks to meet demand.

Armstrong said the cost of hauling water daily “…will not be known until the first monthly bill is received in about three weeks.”

Each well has the capacity to pump roughly 70,000 gallons per day when functioning, and one well running at a time has historically produced enough water to meet demand. Armstrong said a “similar amount” to that 70,000-gallon per day figure is being hauled into Kalapana every 24 hours.

DWS, a semi-autonomous entity only partially affiliated with the County, was plagued by well malfunctions throughout the Kona District for essentially all of 2017 and much of 2018, with as many as five deepwells concurrently offline.

The Kona system was supported by 13 wells for much of that time until DWS later brought a 14th well online.

Kona’s deepwell problems led DWS to issue several 25% mandatory water usage restrictions in lieu of strategically cutting water service to certain areas for certain blocks of time. Systematic service interruptions never occurred, but multiple West Hawai‘i neighborhoods reported low or no water pressure for several hours at a time on sporadic occasions over two calendar years.

The department also issued a 10% water conservation notice for South Kohala in late July when “unexpected equipment malfuctions” occurred at DWS Lalamilo-Parker Well Sites.

Eight wells in that system supply water to several resorts on the Kohala Coast. As many as four of those eight wells were simultaneously offline due to malfunctions at least as recently as mid-to-late 2018.

DWS cancelled the South Kohala conservation in early October.

A DWS voluntary water conservation notice requests that residents and businesses in Kalapana not on catchment systems limit water use to essential needs such as consumption, cooking and sanitation purposes in order to avoid a water outage.

Water conservation measures listed by DWS in its notice include refraining from car washing, cutting back on irrigation and using water wisely indoors and outdoors.

Max Dible
Max Dible is a reporter for Big Island Now. He will also serve in a news capacity for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations. He formerly worked as a community reporter for West Hawai‘i Today in Kailua-Kona from 2016 to 2019. Before that, he was a sports editor, sports reporter and radio talk show personality with the Iowa State Daily and KURE 88.5 FM, respectively, in Ames, Iowa. He's won several regional and national journalism awards, at both the collegiate and professional levels, for breaking news, long-form feature writing and his work as a sports columnist.
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