Unique Community Based Water Quality Testing Program Expands to South Maui

KIHEI, HI – November 2, 2017 — How clean is the water at your favorite South Maui beach? Starting November 7, a volunteer-based water quality testing program known as Hui O Ka Wai Ola (Association of the Living Waters), will be expanding to test 12 South Maui shoreline locations every two weeks for six months, then every three weeks thereafter. The project will eventually be expanded to test a total of 24 South Maui locations.

The Hui O Ka Wai Ola water quality-testing project is the result of a partnership with Maui Nui Marine Resource Council (MNMRC), The Nature Conservancy, West Maui Ridge to Reef (R2R) Initiative, and University of Hawaii Maui College, working with the State of Hawaii Department of Health (DOH).

“Hui O Ka Wai Ola is the first community-based water quality monitoring program in the state that periodically measures turbidity (a measure of water clarity), and nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorous) in near shore ocean waters and makes their data available to the public,” said Dr. Kim Falinski, Marine Science Advisor at The Nature Conservancy.

“Our goal is to support the Department of Health and Maui County efforts to improve coastal water quality so that coral reefs and native fish populations thrive, and our residents and visitors are safe,” said Robin Newbold, Co-founder and Chair of Maui Nui Marine Resource Council.“We want to help identify problem areas, so remedial action may be taken as needed.”

An expansion of Hui O Ka Wai Ola’s West Maui testing
The Hui O Ka Wai Ola water quality testing program began in West Maui in June of 2016, and has been operating and expanding ever since.

“Volunteers and their team leaders currently test a total of 24 West Maui shoreline locations from the Pali to Honolua Bay,” reported Newbold.

“Starting November 7, Hui O Ka Wai Ola water quality testing will be expanded to include 12 sites in South Maui,” said Emily Fielding, The Nature Conservancy’s Maui Marine Program Manager. “Eventually, this will be expanded to 24 South Maui sites.”

The locations of the new South Maui testing sites will be finalized in the next few weeks after they are evaluated for accessibility by the volunteers and other factors. Sites under consideration include ‘Ahihi Kina’u Nature Reserve, Makena Beach State Park, Maluaka Beach, Oneuli (Black Sand Beach), Makena Landing, Kamaole Beach I and III, Kalama Park Beach, Cove Park and Waipuilani Beach.

Powered by volunteers
“A citizen science program like ours would not be possible without an amazing team of volunteers. They are the backbone of Hui O Ka Wai Ola,” noted Sofia de la Sota, South Maui Regional Coordinator and Team Leader.

“More than 20 volunteers have signed up to work at the 12 new South Maui sites. They have completed intensive training and are ready to start water quality testing,” reported de la Sota.

“The volunteers will collect water quality samples according to strict Department of Health (DOH) standards set forth in the Hui’s Quality Assured Program Plan every two weeks for the first six months, then every three weeks after that,” said de la Sota. “They will be testing several water quality parameters in the field: turbidity, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH and temperature. During every collection period, the volunteers will also collect samples which will be frozen and shipped to the SOEST laboratory on Oahu for nutrient analysis.”

The program will test for nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous compounds, which can indicate pollution from wastewater, run-off from agriculture, landscaping and/or golf courses. Too many nutrients in the water can cause an increase in invasive algae (limu), which is damaging to coral reefs. The resulting data will be used to supplement DOH water quality monitoring on Maui and can be viewed at the Hui O Ka Wai Ola website.

“The data resulting from the Hui O Ka Wai Ola program will support the work of Department of Health employee Meghan Dailer, who tests for Enterococcus bacteria,” said de la Sota.

“Due to budget constraints, Dailer is the only Department of Health employee testing water quality for all of Maui,” said Dana Reed, West Maui Regional Coordinator for the Hui O Ka Wai Ola program. “By supplementing her bacteria testing efforts with our nutrient testing, we can better keep a close eye on changing water quality conditions that can harm our coral reefs and human health. We are happy to support DOH and Maui County with this added testing.”

Monitoring the impacts of development and wastewater
“Some of our possible testing sites in South Maui are slated for expanded shoreline development, such as at Maluaka Beach in Makena,” reported de la Sota. “Cove Park, at the center of the wastewater plume coming from the Kihei Wastewater Reclamation Facility, has been flagged for high nutrient levels and turbidity.”

“If we see an issue with increased turbidity or pollution at these sites, we can sound an early warning to initiate measures to address the run-off and pollution as quickly as possible,” noted de la Sota.

In addition to following a regular testing schedule for each of the sites, the program will eventually allow for additional testing during brown water events.

“It is our hope that frequently collecting water quality data will allow for more effective management practices.” said Emily Fielding.

Future funding sought
Testing at 18 of the West Maui sites of the Hui O Ka Wai Ola program is currently funded by North Beach West Maui Benefit Fund; testing at the remaining six West Maui sites is currently funded by Napili Bay and Beach Foundation, as well as National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

“This expansion to South Maui is made possible with generous support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Maui County Office of Economic Development and community donors,” said Amy Hodges, Programs and Operations Coordinator at MNMRC. “Funding for the laboratory and field equipment and initial start-up costs were provided by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) is providing space for storing the water testing equipment.”

The cost of testing at each location is about $3,600 per site per year, which includes analysis and shipping of nutrient samples to the lab on Oahu. Currently, there is funding to continue testing at the South Maui sites for 15 months.

The three nonprofits that lead the project — Maui Nui Marine Resource Council (MNMRC), The Nature Conservancy and West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative — rely upon public donations and local grants to finance their work.

“We hope that the public will support this valuable effort with donations on behalf of their favorite beaches in South and West Maui,” said Newbold. “We all want clean ocean water, healthy reefs and thriving local fish populations. This project is one way to help achieve these goals.”

“In addition to the millions of dollars in revenue directly and indirectly coming from coral reefs in Hawaii, we have to think of their ecological, cultural and recreational value. If we want future generations to benefit from Hawaii’s marine resources, we must act now to protect this valuable ecosystem,” said Newbold.

To learn more about Hui O Ka Wai Ola and ways you can donate or volunteer, visit www.huiokawaiola.com. You can also look at data that the Hui has collected on this website, and even download the data for yourself.

About Maui Nui Marine Resource Council
A local community-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization now celebrating our 10th anniversary, Maui Nui Marine Resource Council is dedicated to restoring clean ocean water, healthy coral reefs and native fish to near shore waters throughout Maui County. We bring the community together to collaborate, learn, work and advocate on behalf of Maui’s coral reef ecosystems. To learn more, visit mauireefs.org.

About West Maui Ridge to Reef (R2R) Initiative

West Maui Ridge to Reef (R2R) Initiative is an all-encompassing approach across multiple agencies and organizations to address adverse impacts to coral reefs in West Maui. The goal of the R2R Initiative is to restore and enhance the health and resiliency of West Maui coral reefs and near-shore waters through the reduction of land-based pollution threats from the summit of Pu`u Kukui to the outer reef.

About The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.


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