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Compliance, tank levels in North Kona steady as well repairs progress

Updated: 
July 14, 2017 - 7:59am

KAILUA-KONA — After a malfunction at the recently repaired Keahuolu Deepwell put North Kona on the edge of water service disruptions, Hawaii County Department of Water Supply has pulled the system back from the brink.

DWS Manager and Chief Engineer Keith Okamoto said the well at Keahuolu is functioning as expected, adding tank gauges are showing stable water levels across the region.

He said that data indicates public compliance with a mandatory 25 percent water usage reduction in North Kona, which was implemented in January and remains in effect.

DWS intensified restrictions to include limits on irrigation, including instructions to the community on how to report blatant over usage of water when Keahuolu went offline June 30. At that time, it was the fifth downed deepwell of 13 that service the area.

The department ultimately wasn’t forced to take more extensive regulatory action to guarantee the community water for drinking and hygiene purposes, although a few measures were implemented.

“We called dozens of high-use accounts, mailed letters to all accounts, as well as (mailed) separate letters for high use accounts,” Okamoto wrote in an email to WHT on Thursday. “(We) installed flow restriction devices on certain accounts using amounts greatly exceeding the meter allowance.”

He added flow restrictions will continue for accounts registering gross over use.

“Our initial effort is to address 5/8” meter accounts that are using over 10 times the amount allowed (400 gallons per day average use),” Okamoto wrote. “This will be an ongoing task as it is a significant effort to install these devices depending on meter location, condition of surroundings, condition of customer pipe, etc.”

Public reports of misuse began to taper off after the well at Keahuolu came back online, Okamoto said. Since then, pressure on the system has decreased significantly. It is expected to ease more July 31 when the Waiaha Deepwell, one of four North Kona wells that remain inoperable, is scheduled to return to service.

The mandatory 25 percent water usage reduction is likely to remain in effect into late fall/early winter, when the other three inoperable wells are expected to return to service.

DWS has begun implementing policy changes to ensure a water shortage of this magnitude is avoided in the future. Those changes include ordering backup parts for crucial wells in water systems across Hawaii Island and initiating bid processes for well repairs before they’re actually needed to cut down on wait times.

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