Ko Olina granted OK to utilize salt water
A permanent well could be used to cool its resort or for bottling
Salt water pumped from 1,300 feet underneath the Ko Olina Resort & Marina could help cool resort buildings, fill a marine aquarium and supply a bottled-water operation.
Those potential uses for up to 6.5 million gallons of salt water daily were listed by developer Ko Olina Intangibles LLC on its water use permit approved Wednesday by the state Commission on Water Resource Management.
Though Ko Olina will have to return to the water commission for approval to actually begin pumping the water, getting the OK to use it "was the big hurdle," said Roy Hardy, commission hydrologic program manager.
The exploratory well Ko Olina drilled last year to ensure that the water would meet its purposes can be outfitted to serve as a permanent well, Hardy said.
The resort originally planned to build a "world-class" saltwater aquarium on its grounds, using a $75 million state tax credit granted in 2003. Early this year, Ko Olina developer Jeff Stone returned the unused tax credit to the state, saying it no longer plans a "centerpiece" aquarium.
Ko Olina executives did not respond yesterday to requests for comment on how quickly they would move forward with use of their well.
Oahu has 47 saltwater wells, which pump more than 100 million gallons per day, Hardy said. Most of the water goes to industrial uses, including cooling and aquaculture and the maintenance of marine facilities such as Sea Life Park, he said.
By comparison, up to 182 million gallons per day of fresh water is approved for pumping from Oahu's aquifers, Hardy said. The salt water proposed for use by Ko Olina is deeper than the fresh water.
The Honolulu Board of Water Supply has no objections to the Ko Olina well because "we're not in the bottled-water business," said Barry Osagawa, the board's water resources principal executive.
The resort will have to get verification from the state Department of Health that water it intends to bottle meets the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for drinking water, said Lynn Nakasone, DOH food and drug branch chief.
Ko Olina also will have to get Health Department approval to inject its byproducts -- the brine from desalinization and warmed-up salt water used in air conditioning heat exchangers -- into underground injection wells, the Water Commission approval noted.