East Hawaii News

East Hawai’i Only Place in State Not Currently Experiencing Drought Conditions

March 8, 2022, 4:01 PM HST
* Updated March 9, 11:16 AM
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The dry rainy season is starting to take its toll, with continuously monitored streamflow stations throughout the state flowing at record low rates. Some are even approaching the lowest flows ever recorded, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Wailuku River (Photo courtesy of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources)

The DLNR said in a news release that drought conditions, as reported by the U.S. Drought Monitor, show nearly the entire state in some level of drought, with all eight of the main Hawaiian Islands experiencing at least moderate drought. The northwestern tips of Kaua‘i and Maui are currently in severe drought.

The only exceptions are a small slice in the center of the Big Island, described as abnormally dry, and East Hawai‘i as the only place in the state not currently experiencing drought conditions.

The median flow for Alakahi Stream for March 8 is 3.23 million gallons per day; however, the current flow rate for the stream in East Hawai’i is just 0.01 mgd, or a measly 0.4% of the average. That’s the lowest average flow for the stream in 57 years. Kawainui Stream, also in East Hawai’i, is experiencing extreme loss of flow, too, currently at 0.14 mgd. That’s 3% of the average March 8 median flow of 4.53 mgd and the lowest rate the stream has seen in nearly 60 years.

A map of real-time streamflow compared to historical streamflow is available on the U.S. Geological Survey Water Watch website.

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Most of Hawai‘i is beginning to experience drought conditions, during the time of year when rain is normally plentiful and regular.

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“As we enter the more typically dry summer months, and without significant precipitation in the next few months, Hawai‘i could be in store for devastating wildfires this year,” said Michael Walker, the state fire manager with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “We are seeing this consequence of global climate change played out on many fronts, including fire seasons that are now year around.”

He said it’s important that people become educated now about how to prevent wildfires, which indirectly have impacts on water supplies when native vegetation burns in forest watersheds.

The Commission of Water Resource Management recommends water conservation measures such as eliminating landscape irrigation and car and truck washing and reductions in-home water use, including shorter showers and not running the faucet continuously when brushing your teeth.

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The commission is advising people to take immediate actions to reduce water use, in Maui County especially, describing current drought conditions as historic.

“A significant lack of rainfall across the island has resulted in a lack of groundwater recharge and surface flow,” said the commission’s deputy director Kaleo Manuel said in a press release. “Normal wet season rainfall has not materialized and streams that are normally gushing with water are barely flowing. This is deepening our already grave concerns about the effects of seasonal drought on water supplies.”

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