Dry spell sets records in Honolulu, Maui, Kauai

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Dry spell sets records in Honolulu, Maui, Kauai

Underground water levels may be down three feet or more, a water board official estimates


By Mary Adamski Star-Bulletin

January's sunny days may have been a high point for visitors' enjoyment, but the clear skies set some undesirable low records.

Residents with lawns turning crisp won't be surprised that last month matched the low rainfall record at Honolulu Airport.

The unseasonably dry weather set a record at Kahului Airport, and rain gauge readings at Hana Airport and in Kula showed other Maui spots suffered near-record lows. An unofficial reading in Wainiha, Kauai, was less than the previous record low rainfall, and it was the second lowest ever recorded at Kapapala Ranch in Kau on the Big Island.

National Weather Service senior hydrologist Kevin Kodama reported the January norm at Honolulu Airport is 3.55 inches. Last month, the gauge recorded 0.18 inches, matching the 1986 record. The Board of Water Supply index for January showed 27 percent of the normal rainfall in the urban area between Red Hill and Hawaii Kai.

The index, an average of all the rain gauges in the area, was only 14 percent of normal in residential areas, said Chester Lao, head of the Board of Water Supply hydrology and geology section.

"This is the fourth successive year of below-normal rainfall," said Lao. "We count on winter for people to cut their water use. We see our water levels getting lower year by year."

Lao said it isn't possible to accurately measure the effect of continued lower supply and higher use on the underground water resource.

But, he estimated, "If you look at that, over the last four years, it may be down two or three feet overall. Some stations may feel it more because of how much they're pumping."

He said the water board never lifted its call for conservation issued last year. The last time prolonged dry weather led the department to set a mandatory water use cutback was in 1984, when lawn-watering was limited through a schedule of odd- or even-numbered days.

The state Department of Agriculture has asked Molokai farmers to voluntarily cut back on their irrigation by 30 percent, but the conservation request has not yet been applied to other islands.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), February 04, 2001

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