Kapolei desalination
project gets under way

The Water Board has plans to convert
up to 5 million gallons a day

Even as the Honolulu Board of Water Supply praised customers for using less water this week than last, it held a blessing yesterday of its pilot sea-water desalination project in Kapolei.

The board plans to build a 5 million-gallons-a-day desalination plant in 2004 or 2005 to provide potable water for the fast-growing Ewa area. The plant would be expandable to as much as 35 million gallons a day and could cost $40 million to $50 million.

By holding down water use this week, Oahu residents and businesses staved off mandatory water restrictions that the board intends to implement if use rises above 178 million gallons a day.

Consumption during the week of Aug. 21-27 averaged 168.51 million gallons a day, down more than 2 million gallons a day from the week before, according to the Water Board's weekly report.

Despite progress toward the board's goal of reducing use this summer to an average of 160 million gallons a day, Manager Cliff Jamile urged customers to keep conserving.

"Water levels at all major monitor stations continue to be lower than May of 2002" because of the drought, he said.

U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, speaking at the desalination project blessing in Campbell Industrial Park, congratulated the Water Board "for taking this courageous step."

"The last 10 days, I've been on Maui, Molokai, the Big Island -- both sides -- and, naturally, Oahu," Inouye said. "The effects of the drought can be seen. It is here."

He told employees of the Water Board and Oceanit, the board's consultant for the desalination plant, that Hawaii's congressional delegation will seek federal funds to help build it.

Inouye and U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka have co-sponsored the Hawaii Water Resources Act of 2003 (S. 960), which is under consideration by the Senate and could direct $65 million over a period of years to drought-fighting projects on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, said Inouye's chief of staff, Jennifer Sabas. The soonest money might be available would be the fall of 2004, she said.

As much as $45 million could be earmarked for the Kalaeloa desalination plant, Sabas said.

Patrick Sullivan, president of Oceanit, said his company's contract to design the 5 million-gallons-a-day desalination plant is worth $2.6 million.

According to Water Board projections, population in the Ewa area, including Kapolei, could increase by 70 percent during the next 20 years, to 114,000 people from 67,000.

Oceanit officials said there will be a three-month testing period to make sure that the components of the desalination plant will perform well in Hawaii conditions.

A light rain fell yesterday as the Rev. William Kaina asked for blessings on the project.

"It never rains here, never," Oceanit engineer Bob Bourke said of the dry, 20-acre site for the desalination facility. "It's a blessing."


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