Sunday, December 11, 2016

Thirsty yet?

The Maui News story about EMI's water permits led with the Bureau of Land and Natural Resources' renewal of the withdrawal authority, then went to the bitching of the opponents. Only then did it mention what I take to be the most significant part of the story:

The daily limit was halved to 80 million gallons.

For decades the limit has been 160 mgd, but this is reached only when it rains in East Maui. At times the total take has fallen to 13 or 14 mgd (even lower, but that was before I arrived on Maui).

Now that HC&S is shutting down, the demand is much less.  The county takes 6 or 7 mgd (and is entitled to more but has not built the pipes to accept it), the ag park takes a million and there are some other small recipients -- say 20 mgd , more in dry seasons, less in the winter.

(HC&S has always insisted that it needed a minimum of 13 mgd, not for irrigation but for fire protection at the mill which relies on ditch flow. If there wasn't a fire, it got to use the 13 mgd on its fields. So when the total diversion went under 20 mgd, the county, which is upstream, was in theory forced to accept cuts; in practice this has been avoided in recent years because  the periods of low capture have been relatively short.)

Now, I guess, we can just let the mill burn so the minimum daily requirement is in the neighborhood of 10 mgd. It has been lower, back in the '70s, but not recently.

So everything is OK, right?

I don't think so. It may take a while but if EMI cannot take 160 mgd, it is not going to keep maintaining the farther reaches of the ditch system, so the total possible take (which has been as high as 200 mgd) will start shrinking. There will come a day when the rain stops and the total available at the places along Baldwin Avenue/Olinda Road where Upcountry gets its drinking water will not be 10 mgd but say, 5 mgd.

There is some storage, enough for 3 months maybe in a pinch.

But in a long drought -- long not unprecedented -- a shriveled EMI will be unable to reach minimum demands.

Not to worry though. Before we get to that point, the lack of water deliveries to abandoned fields, followed by weed growth, will lead to wildfires.

The Maui Vortex will push the flames toward (most likely) Maalaea/North Kihei. It happens frequently. Up to now, the HC&S heavy equipment has cut firebreaks and kept the fires away from the condominiums along the beach.

Next time, there won't be any plantation bulldozers, and the country fire department doesn't have any.

So bye-bye- condos. 

No comments:

Post a Comment