State sets pumping
limits at Maui aquifer

The Waihee aquifer may get
further state protections in January

The state's Commission on Water Resource Management will not designate Maui's Waihee aquifer as a state ground-water management area, at least until January, despite concerns raised by environmentalists.

However, the commission voted yesterday to restrict the county's daily pumping there to an average of 4 million gallons a day, acknowledging a potential risk that taking more could raise the level of brackish water under the aquifer's lens of clean water.

The commission's staff recommended deferring the water management area designation until it works with federal agencies and the county Department of Water Supply to get more accurate measurements on the aquifer's true level, a job it expects to complete by January.

The designation would set up a state permit application and approval system for any new water users.

Kapua Sproat, of Earthjustice, which represents the Maui Meadows Homeowners Association, which raised concerns about the health of the Iao and Waihee aquifers in 2001, urged the commission to initiate the management area immediately.

"If you folks designate today, that doesn't mean the state takes over," she said. "That only starts the process, and it's going to take a whole year."

In response to commission Chairman Peter Young's observation that there is no evidence of increased salinity or drop in the water table at Waihee at current pumping levels, Sproat said there is a lag time for the saltier water to rise in the aquifer.

"The bottom line is that we're pumping water from that aquifer at a higher rate than the salt water particles can rise," she said.


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