project advances

A bill signed by Bush allows federal
funding for isle water projects

Honolulu took a step closer to getting a plant to turn ocean water into drinking water, under a bill signed into law yesterday by President Bush.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka's office announced that the Hawaii Water Resources Act of 2005 authorizes the Department of the Interior to help with the design, planning and construction of water reclamation projects on three islands, and allots $1.7 million to finish a study on irrigation and water delivery systems in the state.

Su Shin, a spokeswoman for the Board of Water Supply, said the new law does not actually appropriate money for a desalination plant. But it is a step toward obtaining federal money, because it allows the Interior Department to include funds for the project in future budgets.

Two years ago the board held a blessing ceremony for a pilot desalination plant. At the time, the board hoped to build a $45 million desalination plant that eventually could provide up to 35 million gallons per day of drinking water.

"It is vitally important for the state to begin working on these water reclamation projects to secure a supply of fresh drinking water for years to come," Akaka noted in a written news release.

Shin said the board had appropriated $2 million next year for a desalination project, but it is not certain if the money will be spent.

"We're looking at all options available to us," she said. "We're not at a point where we would definitely do this."

The other projects that would be considered for federal funds are a $24 million plan to expand the availability of recycled water in Kaanapali for golf course and other development, and a $15 million pilot project to create wetlands around the Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant in North Kona.

The wetlands could provide a natural way to provide nonpotable water for golf course and other uses, said Nelson Ho, deputy director of environmental management on the Big Island.

Honolulu Board of Water Supply

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