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DWS declares “Stage 1” Water Shortage for UpCountry

The Department of Water Supply (DWS) is declaring a Stage 1 water shortage in the Upcountry district due to reduced surface water flow and a lack of rain. At Stage 1, the water rates remain the same. The Stage 1 water shortage will be effective Sunday, April 09, 2017.

Due to the lower than normal water levels, customers may notice a change in water taste and/or smell; however, the State Department of Health has determined that the water from Upcountry Maui is safe to drink. On-going testing continues to show an absence of harmful bacteria and other pathogens in the water; the Department of Water Supply will continue to monitor and test the water, and provide periodic updates.

By law, the Director of Water Supply, with the approval of the Mayor, is authorized to declare a water shortage whenever the water supply becomes inadequate in any area in the County due to a period of drought, an infrastructure or mechanical malfunction, natural disaster, or other event causing a water shortage. A Stage 1 water shortage exists if the Director determines that anticipated water demand in an area is projected to exceed available water supply by one to fifteen percent.
Due to the declaration of a Stage 1 water shortage, all Upcountry water consumers are asked to conserve water and to avoid any unnecessary water use until further notice. Water conservation measures taken now could prevent the progression to a Stage 2 water shortage. Some friendly tips on conserving water are as follows:

  • Kitchen tips: put fruits and vegetables in the sink or in a pan rather than letting the water run; wash a full load of dishes in the dishwasher; and keep a container of drinking water in the fridge.
  • Laundry room tips: wash full loads of laundry; and use an Energy Star washing machine.
  • Outdoor tips: water your lawn only when needed; check the weather and don’t water your lawn if it is going to rain; check the aim of your irrigation system so water is not wasted on sidewalks; and check your garden hose for leaks.
  • Swimming pool tips: install a pool cover; turn down the thermostat; and plant a windbreak.

Changes in water taste and/or smell may be detected by some Upcountry customers; these changes stem from a decrease in the flow of surface water in Upcountry ditches, resulting in a decrease in the level of aeration. This decrease in the flow of water is due to recent drought conditions and HC&S stopping its usage of water for irrigation. The slower moving water has become stagnant, resulting in an increase in the existence of two compounds, Geosmin and MIB (2-methyl isoborneol). These two compounds produces a different odor and taste in the water, even after it goes through the county’s water treatment process. These compounds are naturally occurring and are produced by decaying organic material. Both compounds are not harmful, and the water remains safe to drink.
Geosmin produces an odor similar to overturned rich soils and is present in foods such as beets, spinach, and mushrooms. MIB are naturally occurring compounds found in surface waters as organic molecules produced by blue-green algae. The substances are detectable by the human nose at very low concentrations.

Joanna Seto of the Safe Drinking Water Branch, Hawaii State Department of Health, stated “The water supplied by the Maui County Department of Water Supply to Upcountry residents from all of its water sources continues to meet all Federal and State drinking water standards and remains safe to drink based on water quality results and the treatment processes at its sources. There is no risk to human health from the taste and odor compounds. DOH and DWS staff have been and will continue to work closely together to monitor and mitigate the taste and odor issue.”

“Bottom line is our ditch conditions have changed and now we have water more exposed to high organic matter in our ditches,” said Water Director Dave Taylor. “This did not occur during our wet season when the waters were flowing but now that we are in our dry season, it’s more prevalent. This is something that seems to be temporary for residents. The good news is the water is 100 percent safe to drink, just as it was before.”

The Department of Water Supply thanks its customers for its cooperation and understanding. For general water information, visit



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