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Doubling our troubles is no answer

Updated: 
September 13, 2017 - 12:05am

Let me see if I got this right. Water board member Nestorio Domingo and his enthusiast Jim Hussey propose that we double up on the failing water system so each well has a backup pump, presumably tailored to work within the same parameters as the existing grab-bag of water equipment, all using different pumping equipment?

I presume they intend that all of these secondary pumps will be running at the same time as the primary. Otherwise, the so-called “dual redundant” system is the same as what we have right now: untested replacement pumps sitting in crates until their warranties expire. But if we run them at the same time to make sure both pumps are operational, does that mean doubling the $16 million a year in energy used to pump West Hawaii water?

And at what construction cost? At least Domingo and Hussey candidly concede the bill for this redundancy will be “relatively high.” Hundreds of millions, or perhaps billions?

Saudi Arabia is building the world’s first solar powered desalination plant at Al Khafji. According to water-technology.net, the cost will be $130 million and the output will be 60,000 cubic meters or about 16 million gallons of fresh water per day, an amount which theoretically would supply as many as 50,000 families on the Big Island. (According to West Hawaii Today in a 2015 article, a typical family here uses 9,500 gallons per month, or about 317 gallons a day.) Switching to renewable energy sources should cut production costs as well.

If we’re going to think big, let’s at least look at 21st century, and not 19th century, solutions.

Arne Werchick is a resident of Kailua-Kona.

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