Someone on Maui wants a water meter, and they want it now.

Maui DWS Residential Meter, Installed

The Maui Department of Water Supply has three major, separate systems: the west side, central and south, and upcountry. All of the systems rely on a combination of well and rain water, the upcountry system by far the most dependent on rain. Over the years, overall rainfall has trended downward, while the number of consumers has grown.

After years of struggling with droughts and tight supplies, in 1993 the Board of Water Supply set a long term policy limiting the addition of water meters to the upcountry system, until such time as added supplies became available. Landowners who were already approved for a meter were given six months to have it installed, while everyone else went onto a waiting list which has grown to over 1300 requests.

Now, a Mr. Davis has filed suit, claiming “uncompensated taking and violation of equal protection and due process” regarding his meter-less property in Haiku. His beef seems centered around lack of notice, and the cost of meeting the fire flow requirement. Several other correspondents have chimed in. I suspect there will be many more.

1) Lack of notice: the DWS met the letter of the law by putting an ad in the Maui News notifying customers of the new policy. The DWS could have posted notices in more newspapers, or mailed out notices. How many newspapers? What of the out-of-date addresses?

2) Fire flow requirement: Upcountry Maui is a rural area, and consequently its water system wasn’t built to provide residential levels of fire protection. Before someone can subdivide and develop their property, the pipes leading to it need to be brought up to code. The DWS’ capital improvement program has many competing priorities, among which rural upgrades are low on the list. Therefore, it becomes the landowner’s responsibility, often to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars.

A workaround  is for the landowner to drill a well on property. Another option, only pursued by major developers, is to drill a well elsewhere, and deed it to the County in exchange for a percentage of the rated supply. This translates into a certain number of water meters for the development. This doesn’t happen very often, about once a decade, but it really irks the small landowners.

As for Mr. Davis, I suspect he’s out of luck. A judge will quickly recognize that a ruling which in any way favors the plaintiff will lead to chaos for Upcountry water pressure, and/or break the bank for the County.

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