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Community Viewpoint: ‘Show Me The Water’ needs repealing

Water on Maui can be difficult to come by — not because we are running out of water, but because of bureaucracy.  An ordinance called “Show Me the Water” has slowed down many home builders who desire to build communities that include affordable housing, who try to get their applications through a Water Department with a history of dragging it’s feet.

At the County Council hearing to repeal the “Show Me the Water” ordinance, the discussion was tabled because the council wanted to wait until the Water Use and Development Plan was completed.  Many testifiers said that it only makes sense to wait until the Water Department finishes the WUDP before we embark on sweeping policy changes.

However, the Water Use and Development Plan has been in flux for 23 years, and the deadline for it’s completion has long since expired.  According to the Maui County website, the draft of the WUDP, “Will be available for review prior to the end of 2015,” yet no draft is available as we march on into 2016.  The website shows that there are no public meetings scheduled or documents available for public review.

At the hearing, council members showed little confidence in the Department of Water Supply’s ability to finish the WUDP in a timely manner.  Council member Don Guzman said that it was,”disturbing” to hear the water director talk about the progress made in drafting the WUDP, “The first it’s ever been touched was 23 years ago, and for him to say that we’ve been drafting it on the floor for the last four years — I was not aware of that. I hate song and dance, I will not tolerate it this year. I want to see a Water Use and Development Plan.”

The whole point of repealing the “Show Me the Water” ordinance in the first place was because the process was mired in government bureaucracy that took too long and had too many hurdles.  The solution?  To add more government bureaucracy and more hurdles to the process, with no light at the end of the tunnel for folks who want to provide housing projects.

Let’s remember that Maui county generates more than 427 million gallons of water per day, and Maui uses less than 30 – 40 millions of gallons per day, which is less than 10% of the total water available.  There is more than enough water for everyone on Maui, however our current system creates a scenario where folks who want to develop affordable housing must beg for every last drop.

Another plan, the Maui Island Plan, states that we need 30,000 new homes on Maui by 2030, which equals about 1400 new homes every year.  This is to keep up with a net increase in population of 1200 people per year, and a severe housing deficit.  Already, homelessness on Maui has risen by 30% since 2012, and the problem has become a visible symptom in our community.

As folks in upcountry know, getting hooked up to the water can be a lifelong challenge, and now, the rest of Maui may join the long list of folks waiting in line for a water meter.  How long can we wait for the county to get serious about creating solutions to our housing crisis?

Joe Kent

Joe Kent is Vice President for Research and Development at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, an independent non-profit research organization.

The MAUIWatch Community Network invites readers to express their views in the Community Viewpoint. Community Viewpoint columns should be on or around 800 words. Community Viewpoint submissions are subject to editing. We do not print letters announcing events to come, extensive quotations from other material, open letters or form letters. Send to contact (at) mauiwatch (dot) com

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