(BIVN) – On Tuesday, September 19 at the West Hawaii Civic Center, the Hawaii County Council Finance Committee will take up a resolution requesting the Legislative Auditor conduct a review of the Department of Water Supply. The proposed audit will “ensure adequate contingency plans are in place to guarantee sufficient water to customers at all times, including during a disruption to deepwell operations.”
There are currently five wells out of service in North Kona, placing the area under an emergency Water Restriction Notice. Residents and customers in the area from Keauhou to Keahole and Honalo to Makalei have been forced to restrict water use to health and safety needs (drinking, cooking, and hygiene purposes) only. Honokohau Deepwell, the most recent well to fail, went down on August 13.
The request for an audit follows a Water Supply presentation to the made council on September 5 in Hilo.
“The sentiment from the community is ‘we want (these repairs) as soon as possible'”, Kona councilmember Dru Kanuha told Water Supply manager Keith Okamoto.
It proposal for an audit also follows a special Water Board meeting held in Kona on September 13 in which the baord approved establishing a permitted interaction group. The group will bring together four board members with private industry to exchange ideas and find alternative solutions to the current water problems.
“The board felt like we had to do something, with all these wells down in North Kona,” said water board chair Craig Takamine following the approval of the permitted interaction group. “We definitely have a sense of urgency. We need to look for solutions.”
Meanwhile, a finished report on different Water Supply audit is also on the September 19 Finance Committee agenda.
The legislative auditor just completed an audit report on cash handling at the County Water Department. The report shows incomplete and inaccurate policies and procedures over the water receipts cash handling process has resulted in significant internal controls weaknesses.
Due to these weaknesses, the auditor could not determine if all cash received by the water department was deposited.
The auditor did not identify any instances of fraud or misappropriations during the testing, and Water Supply management has agreed with the comments and recommendations in the auditor’s report.
Then at 10:30 a.m., the Hawaii County Council Committee on Agriculture, Water and Energy Sustainability will take up Bill 65, which amends the county water use and development plan to include provisions for the Keauhou Aquifer System. That’s the same water system that the National Park Service wanted to have designated as a ground water management area by the state. The National Park’s petition was denied after years of debate. Its also the same aquifer system that is now under the emergency water restriction.
Water Supply head Okamoto said the bill was originally set to be heard in Hilo, but was moved to Kona so the affected community could better participate.
Kona’s “water protectors” are already gearing up to provide testimony. The groups that have been following the ground water designation petition now want greater Water Supply accountability, meaningful conservation measures that are measurable and enforceable, community input, systematic identification and preservation of impacted natural/cultural resources, and better planning for a drier future.