The proposed development of a Pukalani well by the state - to offset future draws by Hawaiian homelands and school projects - could add an estimated 0.7 to 1 million gallons a day to the Upcountry water system.
That's the hydrologists' estimate of the draw for the proposed exploratory well to be built on Maui County land near the Department of Water Supply's Pukalani Tank along Kula Highway, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Engineering Division, which submitted a draft environmental impact statement last month.
If the exploratory well produces sufficient water quality and output, the state will move to convert the well into a production well and forge an agreement with the water department to transfer ownership of the well to the county and to integrate the water into the county system, said the draft report that appeared in the Office of Environmental Quality Control's "The Environmental Notice" published Wednesday.
The potential opening of a new seasonally reliable source of water is a big deal for the Upcountry system, which relies mainly on surface water with levels rising and falling depending on rainfall. Late last summer and through the fall, the water department posted drought advisories and called for voluntary water reductions due to a lack of rain.
The draft report notes that there are three other wells, including the 1.3 mgd Pookela Well, that supply the Upcountry system, but that their yields are just a fraction of the average 7 mgd total water demand for Upcountry.
"There is currently, and for the foreseeable future, a shortage of water in the Upcountry District," the draft report said.
Water Supply Director Dave Taylor said Thursday that his department has been "actively coordinating" with the state on this well project.
"The state has a number of potential projects in the Upcountry area and recognizes the need for additional water source development to support these projects," he said in an email.
The draft report said those projects include Department of Hawaiian Home Lands residential developments, which will require the vast majority of the 1.6 mgd needed for state projects through 2020. The 1.5 mgd for the Kula project will be required next year, the draft report said.
The other projects listed were school classrooms and renovations at Kalama Intermediate, King Kekaulike High and Makawao schools.
"The well is intended primarily to provide potable water for future state of Hawaii projects, including school projects for the Department of Education and residential developments of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands," the draft report said.
With water an impediment for landowners to obtain water meters Upcountry, the well project is meant to supplement the county water supply as the state proceeds with its projects, said Ron Terry of Geometrician Associates and environmental consultant for the project Thursday.
"It is the state's job to develop water sources for state jobs," he said.
That's not always possible but "it is pretty common for them (the state) to assist" in development of water sources, he said.
The cost of the exploratory well, funded by the state DLNR, is $1.5 million, the draft report said. Construction could begin within six months of the completion of the environmental assessment process, and the drilling and testing of the well could take another year or less.
The Pukalani Tank site was selected among six potential sites because the 1 acre location provides enough room for well infrastructure, is owned by the water department and requires minimal improvements to connect to the county system, the draft report said.
The report also says that there will be no adverse impact on the sustainable yield of the aquifer.
The draft report may be found at oeqc.doh.hawaii.gov/shared%20documents/environmental_notice/current_issue.pdf.
The deadline for filing comments is Feb. 7.
Comments may be made to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Engineering Division, 1151 Punchbowl St., Room 221, Honolulu 96813, contact Gayson Ching at (808) 587-0232; or Geometrician Associates, P.O. Box 396, Hilo 96721, contact Terry at (808) 969-7090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Lee Imada can be reached at email@example.com.