World Water Day: City Departments Work to Conserve Water amid Strain on Water Supply
News Release from City and County of Honolulu, March 22, 2022
HONOLULU – On this World Water Day, and every day, the City and County of Honolulu (City) departments stand with the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS) in taking urgent water conservation measures, especially with a strained water supply and the responsibility to ensure Oʻahu’s water security.
The theme of World Water Day 2022 is “groundwater—making the invisible visible,” which couldn’t be more relevant to Oʻahu. After 14,000 gallons of fuel and water leaked from the Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility and contaminated the Navy’s drinking water source, the BWS in December 2021 closed three of its water sources in an abundance of caution. These sources remain closed today, and increased pumping at the remaining wells has put stress on Oʻahu’s limited fresh water sources. Additionally, Oʻahu continues to experience moderate to severe drought conditions with the hotter summer months ahead.
Subsequently, the BWS has requested all Oʻahu water users to voluntarily decrease water usage by 10%. “Here on Oʻahu, we are fully dependent on groundwater and the slow process of aquifer recharge,” said Ernest Lau, manager and chief engineer of the BWS. “By decreasing water demand, together we can reduce strain on our active wells and allow for adequate recharge, while we address ongoing uncertainty of aquifer contamination. Every drop saved contributes to rebuilding our water security and we’re thankful for the proactive actions of the City.”
“The need to conserve water is more important than ever before,” added Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “We fully trust the expertise of the BWS, and will do everything we can to avoid potential mandatory conservation later this year. The entire City has been taking water conservation seriously and is doing our part to conserve. We ask that all Oʻahu water users—including visitors—do the same.”
Being water smart is a priority for the City, for both responsible resource use and cost saving opportunities. The City measures water usage and reports it in the City’s Annual Sustainability Report. The City is also benchmarking (tracking) its water and energy usage at City facilities to identify opportunities to cut waste, save money, and invest in efficiency upgrades. Through the introduction of Bill 22 (2022)—Better Buildings Benchmarking Program—the City will facilitate a similar awareness for large buildings toward the reduction of waste and utility costs and investments in efficiency improvements, including more informed decision-making by the City on where to invest critical resources to improve the existing building stock and support businesses and residents.
In March 2021, Mayor Blangiardi established the City’s One Water Panel, an interdepartmental group convened by the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, to coordinate cost-effective and climate-resilient infrastructure. The One Water Panel works across all forms of water for an integrated resource approach furthering the Hawai‘i Freshwater Initiative’s water security pillars of conservation, recharge, and reuse. The City intends to continuously improve its water management practices beyond the following measures.
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The Department of Design and Construction (DDC) is managing a City-wide Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) that takes water conservation actions such as domestic plumbing retrofits and irrigation system upgrades, while also making energy efficiency upgrades. Phase I water conservation measures installed within the past two months across 10 City buildings are already showing benefits.
The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) is identifying park locations with high water consumption to determine where water saving efforts can be maximized while minimizing impact to the public. DPR also recently signed an ESPC to deliver water and energy savings, while beautifying and improving dozens of parks across O‘ahu. To complement these large-scale efforts, DPR is asking for everyone’s water conservation kōkua through simple gestures such as making sure showers are completely turned off when not in use and reporting water leaks to DPR through Honolulu 311.
The Department of Enterprise Services (DES) is implementing site-specific best management practices at the City’s Ala Wai, Pali, and Kahuku Golf Courses, including reducing irrigation frequency and duration, and focusing on only irrigating priority areas such as putting greens and tees. The unique irrigation water at the Ala Wai Golf Course is predominately reliant upon a mix of brackish well water and potable water; DES has changed the ratio of this mixture to conserve potable water. DES already uses recycled water for irrigation at ‘Ewa Villages and West Loch Golf Courses, and non-potable irrigation water at Ted Makalena Golf Course.
The Department of Environmental Services (ENV) distributes recycled water, which is wastewater treated to a level suitable for industrial processing, irrigation and other non-drinking uses. Recycled water is available even in times of drought, and decreases the demand on our limited potable resources. Currently, ENV is improving recycled water availability, including upgrades to the recycled water systems at the Wahiawā and Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment Plants, along with future projects anticipated at Waimānalo, Kahuku, and Pa‘ala Kai Wastewater Treatment Plants.
The Department of Facility Maintenance (DFM), in partnership with the Waikīkī Aquarium and Department of Health Clean Water Branch, has developed the interactive website com, showcasing educational activities and three family-friendly events that support managing rainfall and storm water infrastructure. Additionally, those interested in volunteering to mark storm drains can sign up any time throughout the year by using the Storm Drain Marking Map. Collecting rainwater to water gardens, installing permeable pavements and landscaping, and disconnecting impervious surfaces helps to slow water down, spread it out, and soak it in. Green storm water infrastructure improves the sustainability of the entire water cycle.
The BWS is ensuring that their own water system and fixtures are functioning as efficiently as possible, and has reached out to public and private sector customers who use large amounts of water to promote efficiency and avoiding unnecessary water waste. In addition to their many residential and commercial water conservation programs, the BWS is also designing a new program to provide hotels with a comprehensive guide that will cover water-saving practices, technologies, and processes.
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Visit boardofwatersupply.com to find tips, programs, and rebates to do your part in conserving water. To gain a deeper understanding of World Water Day and its groundwater theme, visit boardofwatersupply.com/worldwaterday. The public may contact the BWS’ Water Waste Hotline at 808-748-5041 or at firstname.lastname@example.org if they witness misuse of water.