The wane in rain points
to no-waste campaign

Despite a wet winter, water supplies
remain precariously low

By Mary Vorsino

Heavy winter rain boosted drinking water levels at key monitoring stations on Oahu.

Despite the boost, however, eight of the nine stations are still operating under caution conditions and the remaining station, in Punaluu, is on alert status, the second highest level of concern.

And with weather forecasters predicting a hot summer and a dry winter those increased levels aren't expected to last long.

"We've made some improvement and (the outlook) is better than it was last year. But (voluntary) conservation is needed now to keep water levels" in a healthy range, Honolulu Board of Water Supply spokeswoman Denise DeCosta said.

The board plans to kick off its annual summer water conservation program by the end of the month. The program usually begins earlier but was delayed to cover an anticipated hot September, DeCosta said.

The program will stress voluntary water conservation "always reminding people" that water is a limited and precious resource, she said.

The board's main water monitoring station on Beretania street, which supplies much of Honolulu's water, reported a 21.53-foot table in the last week of May, compared to a 20.32-foot table in the same week last year. Stations islandwide reported similar one-foot increases.

On average, Oahu residents use 155 million gallons of water per day. In the summer, usage can go up to more than 180 million gallons per day because of the heat and the season's traditionally low rainfall.

In a winter with normal rainfall, like this past winter, usage can drop to about 132 million gallons per day, DeCosta said.

Forecasters, however, are not predicting the coming winter to be normal.

Jim Weyman, director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, said that a moderate El Nino, expected to begin in August or September, will bring hotter than usual end of summer temperatures and a drier than usual winter.

El Nino, Spanish for "boy child," is associated with the abnormal warming of eastern Pacific waters. The phenomenon upsets wind and rain patterns worldwide and can mean more summer storms and winter droughts here, Weyman said.

With water levels already expected to drop, low rainfall this coming winter could mean an additional strain on the system warranting "an extra need for caution," DeCosta said.

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