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DWS: 2 Wells Out Now Same Ones in 2017

By Tom Hasslinger
June 13, 2022, 4:00 PM HST
* Updated June 13, 3:16 PM
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Keith Okamoto

The Department of Water Supply stated Monday, June 13 that two of the four inoperable wells necessitating a 25% water restriction in North Kona are the same wells that failed in 2017, which prompted a water restriction in Kona that last over a year.

Both the Kalaoa and the Hualālai deepwells were part of the situation in 2017 and are out of order now, the department said. Neither recently repaired well was still under its warranty period, either.

“Our contracts only include a one-year warranty on both materials and workmanship, so current well failures are not covered under warranty provisions,”  Janet Snyder, DWS spokeswoman, told Big Island Now.

Estimates to repair the Hualālai deepwell are $300,000. It is expected to be repaired by September, however, the department has reached out through a network of water utilities in the western region of the United States for assistance and said it’s hopeful another entity will have the resources to assist sooner. 

The department also stated that it is hoping to use spare power cable in its inventory to bring the Kalaoa well back to service by mid- to late July. With Kalaoa deepwell back in service, water restrictions would likely revert from the 25% restriction “to a more modest request for continued conservation of 10%.”

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The areas affected by the 25% water restriction are Mākālei, Kalaoa, Kona Palisades, Keāhole, Pālamanui, Kohanaiki, Kaloko, Kaloko Mauka, and Hualālai.

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The public was notified of the mandatory water restriction on June 6 after the Hualālai deepwell’s pump motor failed, prompting the department to issue a news release notifying the public of the restriction that cited the single well failure as the cause for the water restriction order.

A few days later, Water Supply Manager Chief Engineer Keith Okamoto clarified that four wells were now out in the 14-well North Kona system, three of which were in the same area, which was the reason for the water restriction.

Snyder said on Monday that the reason the department didn’t notify the public that four failed wells, and not just one, when it originally notified the public on June 6 was because Hualālai’s failure acted as the “trigger” for the restriction.

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“Essentially the Hualālai failure was the trigger for the restriction because it reduced our production capacity in that area,” Synder said. “Four wells out of service does not automatically trigger a water restriction. It depends on the location and associated consumption in the service area.”

“In hindsight it may have been more appropriate to mention that three wells in the same vicinity were down,” she added.

In 2017, multiple well failures prompted a mandatory water restriction in North Kona that lasted over a year, as Big Island Now reported last week.

An overall estimate to repair all four wells is unknown at this time, DWS explained, as two of the wells have other aspects which complicate providing repair costs.

Several other areas in North Kona remain under a water conservation notice that calls for a voluntary 10% reduction in water use They are Kahalu‘u, Keauhou, Kailua-Kona, Honokōhau, Kealakehe, Keahuolū, Keōpū, Hōlualoa and Wai‘aha.

DWS told Big Island Now on Monday that it does have spare equipment, however the spare equipment currently in inventory is only compatible with wells matching certain parameters. DWS does have annual contracts to bring some pumps and motors into its inventory as spares, however, its vendors and suppliers do not always happen to have the correct specifications for wells that fail. 

Storage for spare parts can be difficult to handle as well, as the parts in question are sizable pieces of equipment.

“Most deep-set submersible pumps and motors are too large of an item for vendors and suppliers to keep in stock,” Okamoto explained. “The Department does its best to prioritize and predict which spare equipment should be purchased for our inventory, however, it must be balanced against how long it may stay in storage, as the equipment requires particular methods of storage to ensure the equipment is suitable for use when needed.”

Tom Hasslinger
Tom Hasslinger is a journalist who lives in Kailua-Kona. Prior to joining Big Island Now, he worked as the managing editor for West Hawaii Today and deputy editor for The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai. He's worked for over 15 years as a reporter for the Oahu-based Civil Beat news outlet, as well as in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and Douglas Wyoming.
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