Local recreational boaters said water spigot reductions at state harbors are fueling frustrations over water distribution — especially when thirsty hotel users continue to irrigate their properties.
“The better question to ask is if I know any boat owners that are happy about it,” Maui boater Brian Yoshikawa said last week. “This is taxation without representation at its worse.”
Other boaters said the state is mandating water cutbacks at harbors – but reductions aren’t being enforced the same way against large-scale water users, such as hotels. Typically, top water users in Maui County are short-term visitor accommodations, according to county reports.
Citing drought, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation in July asked boaters statewide to reduce water use by 10% at all DLNR facilities and properties, which include harbors.
The County of Maui in August requested that all Maui Island residents and visitors conserve water due to persistent drought conditions.
In order to conserve water at state harbors, the state implemented a 50% reduction in water spigots. Initially all spigots were capped at Kihei boat ramp due to an error, DLNR said, but that was corrected.
For the spigots that do have water, pressure has been decreased significantly, according to Yoshikawa, who owns Maui Sporting Goods in Wailuku.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “While washing my trailer (last Sunday), a couple guys with jet skis had to wait for me to finish and they were all pissed off I was taking so long until I showed them how low the pressure was.”
Yoshikawa said recreational boaters pay a state user fee for water and other services, and the state should enforce against overuse from non-authorized users.
“So instead of addressing the illegal use of the spigots by others aside from those with a ramp use decal (and tax paid for such decal to utilize the ramp and its facilities, ramp, dock, parking and water), the state decided to penalize the users that directly pays for these facility amenities,” he wrote to Maui Now. “Go figure.”
Ed Underwood, state DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation administrator, said the fee is solely for the use of the launch ramp.
“The fee is for the use of the launch ramp and does not include water,” he told Maui Now last week. “Water is an amenity offered by DOBOR.”
While Maui County continues to grapple with the worst drought conditions in the state, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center recently released its seasonal drought outlook for Sept. 15 to Dec. 31, showing that drought may alleviate over the next three months.
When asked whether the spigots would be reinstated in the future, DLNR said they will return once the drought lifts.
“Yes, once the drought is deemed over, we can reestablish the spigots,” Underwood said.
* Maui Now News Director Wendy Osher contributed to this report.