Local boaters said cutbacks to water taps at ports across the state are fueling frustrations over water distribution — especially when thirsty hotel users continue to irrigate their properties.
“The best question to ask is if I know any boat owners who are happy with it,” Maui boater Brian Yoshikawa said last week. “This is taxation without representation at its worst.”
Other boaters said the state enforces water reductions at ports — but the reductions are not applied equally against large water users, such as hotels. According to county reports, Maui County’s primary water users are generally short-term visitor accommodations.
Citing the drought, the State Department of Lands and Natural Resources’ Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation asked boaters in the state in July to reduce water use by 10% in all DLNR facilities and properties, including ports.
In August, Maui County asked all residents and visitors to the island of Maui to conserve water due to persistent drought conditions.
In order to conserve water in the state’s ports, the state implemented a 50% reduction in water faucets. Initially, all the taps were clogged at the Kihei boat launch due to an error, DLNR said, but that has been fixed.
For faucets that have water, the pressure has been reduced significantly, according to Yoshikawa, owner of Maui Sporting Goods in Wailuku.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “While I was washing my trailer (last Sunday) a few guys with jet skis had to wait for me to finish and they were all pissed that I was taking so long until I showed them how much pressure it was low.”
Yoshikawa said boaters pay a state user fee for water and other services, and the state should fight overuse by unauthorized users.
“So instead of addressing the illegal use of the taps by others than those who have a ramp usage sticker (and the tax paid for such a sticker to use the ramp and its facilities, ramp , dock, parking and water), the state has decided to penalize users who pay directly for these amenities,” he wrote to Maui Now. “Go figure.”
Ed Underwood, administrator of the DLNR’s Boating and Ocean Recreation Division, said the fee is for use of the launch pad only.
“The fee is for use of the boat launch and does not include water,” he told Maui Now last week. “Water is a convenience offered by DOBOR.”
As Maui County continues to face the state’s worst drought conditions, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center recently released its seasonal drought forecast for September 15 through December 31, showing that the drought may ease over the next three months.
When asked if the taps would be reinstated in the future, DLNR said they would return once the drought lifted.
“Yes, once the deemed drought is over, we can reinstate the taps,” Underwood said.
*Maui Now News Director Wendy Osher contributed to this report.