Finally, after a period of more than 100 years, the Waimea River will be restored to continuous flow. In a historic decision announced on April 18, 2017, the Hawaii Commission on Water Resource Management approved a settlement to restore year-round flow to the river with a focus on adequate water supply for sustainable agriculture and renewable energy, while establishing a framework for the balanced and sustainable use of water on the western side of Kauai. Provisions were also put in place for real-time monitoring of water flows, to be made available to the public.
Originally, the Waimea River was diverted in the early 1900s by the Kekaha Sugar Company to feed the Kekaha and Kōke’e ditch systems, which required approximately 50 million gallons of water every day, to satisfy the needs of a 7300 acre sugar cane plantation. Though the sugar mill ended operations in 2000, millions of gallons of water continued to be diverted through the plantation’s ditch systems daily, an action that prompted local taro farmer John A’ana to help found Po’ai Wai Ola, a group dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Waimea River. In conjunction with Earthjustice, Po’ai Wai Ola filed a legal petition to restore the Waimea River to continuous flow in July of 2013.
For more information, the full press release is available here.