U.S. Water News Online
HONOLULU -- As Oahu residents worry about having enough
water to keep their lawns green under recent restrictions, relief
could be closer than most think with construction of a desalination
plant in leeward Oahu.
The plant, set to open within the next two years, could reduce
water shortages on the island by meeting up to a fourth of the
current water demand.
``We're surrounded by sea water,'' said Barry Usagawa, the
Honolulu Board of Water Supply's water resources principal executive.
``I don't see why we don't start taking advantage of it.''
And that's what the agency, state and City and County of Honolulu
intend to do within the next two years with the plant that will pump
up to 35 million gallons of fresh water a day to area homes and
Usage now ranges from 150 million to 180 million gallons a day.
The board asked Oahu residents to confine irrigation and landscape
watering to three days a week under voluntary restrictions.
Water tables on Maui and the Big Island also continue to be low.
The $45 million Kalaeloa Desalination Facility is expected to
serve the residents of leeward Oahu, whose population has grown
substantially over the last few decades.
A small pilot facility was just completed at the site to test
filters and the plant's control systems, he said.
The plant is being built on 20 acres of land that previously
belonged to the Barbers Point Naval Air Station and will reach its
full capacity in 2020.
Proponents of the plant say it could dramatically better the
island's long-term water outlook and prompt similar plants on other
islands, especially Maui, where water officials have threatened
mandatory restrictions if water consumption in the Upcountry area
does not drop.
``It is a water supply that is drought-proof and it allows us to
sustain our natural resources,'' Usagawa said.
But some environmentalists are concerned about the economic and
environmental drawbacks of such an energy-intensive facility.
Desalination plants consume more energy than standard water
treatment plants because of the extended water purification process.
Jeff Mikulina, director of the Sierra Club's Hawaii chapter, said
that's why such plants are common in countries like Egypt and Kuwait,
where oil is plentiful but water is not.
``I think they're looking in the wrong direction. The first place
to look is conservation,'' he said, citing recent reports that only
10 percent of the board's largest industrial water consumers have
committed to water restrictions.
He said the board should also concentrate on reducing runoff by
planting trees and building fences to keep out feral animals that
``No one solution is going to do it all,'' acknowledged Usagawa.
But he said, ``Our strategic approach is going to do it all.'' He
said the board also will concentrate on recycling water and promoting
healthy watershed projects.
Board officials have said Oahu is expected to reach its water
capacity by the year 2020, pumping nearly 98 percent of its available
The Ewa plant is the first of its size in the state and one of
only a few in the nation that are capable of serving large
A recently opened desalination plant in Tampa Bay, Fla., provides
53 million gallons of water a day to area residents. By 2008, the
plant will produce up to 111 million gallons per day and will be the
largest such plant in North America.
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