GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Workers from the Board of Water Supply and the Industrial Precast Products company began work Thursday night to replace a section of a 24-inch water main that supplies 60 percent of the water to the Leeward Coast of Oahu. CLICK FOR LARGE
Oahu drowning in water main breaks
On average, more than one pipeline fails every day, and fixes are planned until 2012
OAHU'S AGING water mains break roughly 400 times a year -- averaging more than one a day. A 46-year-old pipe that supplies most of the water to the Leeward Coast broke last Sunday.
Twelve homes in Kahe Point didn't have any water Thursday night and Friday as crews worked to repair the main, illustrating the inconvenience main breaks pose to a community.
» Farrington Highway in the Leeward Coast, including the 24-inch water main that broke last Sunday at Kahe Point, $14.27 million
» Haleiwa Road, $1.67 million
» Monsarrat Avenue, $1.15 million
» Aloha Stadium area, $1.86 million
» Woodlawn Drive, $1.68 million
Source: Honolulu Board of Water Supply
The Board of Water Supply has a six-year plan to replace the aging and corroding water lines, though other factors, such as cost and resources, may prevent officials from doing so in a timely manner.
Buckets of water lined the front yard of Lei Nakatani's house at Kahe Point in Nanakuli for her 60-plus chickens, two pigs and pit bull to drink.
Her bathtub was filled with water so her family could flush the toilet.
No double flushes. No unnecessary hand-washing. Let dirty dishes pile up.
"Water is one of the things you take for granted," Nakatani said Thursday morning as she rushed to do a load of laundry. The water to her house was shut off at 8 p.m. for repairs to a major water main nearby. "You need water for everything. You don't realize it. We didn't realize it until we didn't have any."
Much of the more than 2,000 miles of Oahu's water pipelines are several decades old, with some still in use long after surpassing their expected years of effective service.
The older water mains are more likely to fail -- which is what happened to the 46-year-old, 24-inch main near Kahe Point last Sunday that supplies 60 percent of the water to the Leeward Coast.
"We know our pipes are old and we know repairs are due," Nakatani said.
Twelve homes, including Nakatani's, were forced to go without water Thursday night and into Friday as crews from the Board of Water Supply finished a weeklong repair to the pipe installed nearly a half-century ago. Thousands of residents were advised to save water and many experienced low water pressure.
"Water main breaks are unfortunate reminders of the age of our infrastructure," said Board of Water Supply spokeswoman Su Shin. "Over the past several decades, the board has been working to replace the aging lines, and you have to put it on a systematic basis. We're slowly trying to go through and prioritize."
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Workers from the Board of Water Supply and the Industrial Precast Products company worked Thursday night to replace a section of a 24-inch water main. CLICK FOR LARGE
The city has a six-year capital program lasting until 2012 that outlines the funding needed for pipeline and water facilities repairs across the island.
Right now, there are about 46 ongoing construction projects, including the major repairs of the water and sewer lines on Kapiolani Boulevard.
The age of a main, the condition of the surrounding soil, the system's design and the community it serves are all factors in prioritizing repairs for water lines.
"We don't like main breaks," Shin said. "If we can avoid them, we will do everything in our power to do so. Unfortunately, main breaks are a part of the water utility industry."
There are roughly about 400 main breaks a year, averaging more than one every day, Shin said. However, compared with national averages, Oahu's water mains fall slightly below with about 20 main breaks per 100 miles of pipeline per year, Shin said. The national average, she said, is about 25 to 30 breaks per 100 miles per year.
Most of the repairs in the Board of Water Supply's plan are for the aging water lines. In Kalihi, a project is planned to repair water lines along Middle Street that were installed in 1904. There have been 61 breaks in that area.
Other mains, younger ones, on Oahu are corroded. Some mains are in busy areas, which would be burdensome to shut down for construction. And Shin said the Board of Water Supply does not have the money or resources to fix all the mains that need repairs.
"There's only so many construction companies out there," Shin said. "We're on an island so we're limited by these very practical factors.
"One pipe we use, the PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipe, is a petroleum-based project and the costs have skyrocketed. We don't have the luxury of waiting until petroleum prices go down. We're driven by all these uncontrollable things."
In December, water rates went up for the first time in 11 years to pay for increases in electricity, fuel and construction material costs and to replace the aging water infrastructure.