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Although Hawaii is endowed with plentiful water resources, eventually water needs will overcome supply in certain areas. Feeling that the state should act to protect, control, and regulate water resources -- including the development, use, and allocation of water -- the 1978 Hawaii Constitutional Convention amended the constitution, calling for better management of the state's water resources, particularly in the area of water use regulation.
The current system of water right laws in this state, based upon ancient Hawaiian customs and evolved over the years through case law, is unclear and difficult to administer. Conflicts over water use are usually resolved, case by case, in legal proceedings. Although the constitutional amendment does not specify that the legislature define water rights, some codes are being proposed to determine who would have ultimate authority to control the use of water, what powers should he conferred on the administration, and how traditional Hawaiian water law might be accommodated. Presumably those codes would be developed and administered by the "water agency."
Many proposals have surfaced to fulfill the mandate of the Water Resources Amendment. The State Water Functional Plan proposes expanding Hawaii's existing Ground Water Use Act to cover all ground water areas for regulation, protection, and control, if conditions are found to exist that will endanger the quality or quantity of ground water in such areas. The Act already provides the mechanism for regulation by a permit system and hearing procedure. The state agency which administers the Ground Water Use Act is the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
As an alternative, Representative Richard Kawakami recently proposed a new Water Resources Planning and Control Agency as an arm of the State Department of Planning and Economic Development. The proposed agency would have full power and responsibility for the conservation, protection, management, and control of state waters. The agency would develop a water plan, issue permits, regulate wells, and be responsible for water quality standards.
A third proposal was recommended by the State Water Commission. The Commission recommended the creation of an independent water agency -- the Water Use Control Board. Members of the Board would be appointed by the governor. the Board would be responsible for the establishment of a permit system to control the development and use of water. The State hater Commission also recommended that the legislature authorize the development of a comprehensive water code to deal with water rights and ownership.
Last, but not least, the legislators have introduced a bill which would remove the water resources amendment from the constitution by another constitutional amendment.
If you are interested in sorting out all this activity and learning more about water, please call Anna Hoover (373-9605).