Due to low surface water flow and lack of rainfall amid drought conditions, the County of Maui Department of Water Supply is advancing the Stage 1 water shortage to a Stage 2 water shortage for the Upcountry service area on Nov. 8, 2023.
The East Maui Watershed services Upcountry residents and farmers from Haʻikū to Kanaio; the Upcountry water system is separate from the Central Maui system that services South Maui. The Upcountry water service area covers Makawao, Upper and Lower Kula, Haʻikū, Pukalani, Kokomo, Kaupakalua, Ulumalu, ʻUlupalakua and Kanaio.
The declaration per County Code requires Upcountry water consumers to stop using water for irrigation, watering lawns, washing vehicles or other nonessential activities. Also, the use of temporary construction meters is prohibited. At this time, there is no change to water rates.
The Stage 2 water shortage takes effect when anticipated water demand in an area is projected to exceed available water supply by 16 to 30%. Daily water demand is currently exceeding supply by 20%, according to Water Supply Director John Stufflebean.
“This is being managed by drawing from storage reservoirs, but the reservoirs are now at a level that action is needed to reduce demand by 20%,” Stufflebean said. “The purpose of the storage reservoirs was to carry us from wet season to wet season, however, since this wet season is expected to be below average, action is needed.”
In the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s winter forecast issued two weeks ago, less rainfall in forecast for the wet season of October through April 2024; it added that Maui and the Big Island have the worst drought conditions in the “extreme” category.
As a result of drought and other factors, such as Upcountry fire mitigation, DWS announced Oct. 21 that a Stage 1 Water Shortage Declaration would go into effect Oct. 26.
Per County Code, Stage 1 water shortages take effect if DWS director with the approval of the mayor determines that anticipated water demand in an area is projected to exceed available water supply by 1 to 15%. Residents who use water for non-essential purposes could face a fine.
Upcountry water system has long-faced drought conditions, and Maui County has experienced the worst drought conditions in the state in recent years, according to National Weather Service and the US Drought Monitor.
DWS said it will continue to watch supply and demand, along with the weather forecast, to determine next steps.