Our Waters Need Your Help

Your support helps us to improve water quality, and furthers our mission to ensure fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters for future generations. 

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Waiwai Ola Waterkeepers Hawaiian Islands

Restoring Hawai'i's Living Water Resources

Waiwai Ola Waterkeepers Hawaiian Islands is an environmental non-profit organization.  Waterkeepers work to protect the ability of present and future generations to swim, fish, drink, and otherwise use and enjoy the waters that support the people and culture of Hawai‘i.  "Waiwai Ola" means "living wealth." Indeed, the future of our water resources will determine the future of our people.  “Ola i ka wai” - Water Is Life.  

Every day, polluted runoff and pathogens from antiquated wastewater infrastructure contaminate our fresh and marine water resources.  Many popular beaches across the islands have been closed repeatedly due to concerns for water quality.  

Although our problems are daunting, there is still hope.  Some of our challenges are similar to other coastal communities around the world that have already begun to lay the foundation for their clean water futures.   

The first Waterkeeper project in Hawai‘i, led by O'ahu Waterkeeper, is the restoration of native oysters to actively improve water clarity and quality at locations around O'ahu.  We are working in partnership with the Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center (“PACRC”) at UH Hilo and the Waikiki Aquarium to deploy cages of native oysters in nearshore waters.  

Filter feeding bivalves such as oysters can improve water quality by removing harmful pollutants that enter the ocean from wastewater and stormwater, as well as industrial and agricultural runoff. Oysters also remove carbon from the water and use it to build their shells, underscoring their importance in our changing climate and marine environment.  The restoration project is modeled after several successful partnerships with Waterkeeper organizations on the East Coast involving the restoration of native oysters for bioremediation.  The restoration projects will begin in late 2018 with support from private donors including Douglas Emmett, the Chee Family Foundation, and the Sangham Foundation.

This project has deep cultural and historical significance.  Native shellfish species were once abundant as expressed through Native Hawaiian chants, songs, and legends.  The new project involves the restoration of three species of native shellfish whose populations have declined in modern times:  Dendostrea sandvicensis (Hawaiian Oyster), Pinctada margaritifera (Black-lip Pearl Oyster), and Pinctada radiata (Rayed Pearl Oyster).   

Clean Water Under Our Homes

In partnership with the Hawai‘i Department of Health, we are working to develop a pilot low-cost loan program to help residents afford to upgrade their cesspools to aerobic treatment units or other more efficient wastewater infrastructure. This will reduce bacteria levels and pathogens in our water resources.

Oysters to the Rescue!


In conjunction with native oyster restoration projects, Waterkeepers will engage the community in watershed education to reduce the flow of pollutants towards the nearshore waters. 

The oysters provide a unique opportunity to discuss complex environmental issues including stormwater, wastewater, water quality, and fishing safety.

About Us

Rhiannon Chandler-'Iao, Executive Director pictured here with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

      Rhiannon “Rae” Tereari‘i Chandler-‘Īao (pictured here with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.) serves as the Executive Director and O‘ahu Waterkeeper for Waiwai Ola Waterkeepers Hawaiian Islands.  After graduating from William S. Richardson School of Law in 2016 with certificates in both Native Hawaiian Rights Law and Environmental Law, she worked as a Post-J.D. Research & Teaching Fellow at Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law.  

     Prior to attending law school, Rhiannon served as the Executive Director of the environmental non-profit organization Community Work Day Program, d.b.a. Mālama Maui Nui.  While on Maui, she served as a member of the Maui County Cultural Resources Commission, the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, and the Steering Committee of Ka Ipu Kukui Fellows Leadership Program.   

     Waiwai Ola Waterkeepers Hawaiian Islands is led by the Board Members of O'ahu Waterkeeper - President:  Wendy Wiltse, Ph.D.,  Vice President: Marian Phillipson, Treasurer: Maile Goo, Psy.D., and Secretary: Heather George, as well as Board Member Denise Darval-Chang, and Advisory Council Members of Kona Coast Waterkeeper and the proposed Hilo Bay Waterkeeper.

About Waterkeeper Alliance

     Under the direction of Board President Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement to protect water resources, currently uniting more than 340 Waterkeeper Organizations and Affiliates  throughout over 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. 

See Our Recent Articles!

Waikiki Aquarium Magazine Article (pdf)


Midweek Good Neighbor Article (pdf)


Adopt a Native Oyster 'Ohana to Improve Water Quality

 Native oysters are filter feeders that remove harmful pollutants including sediment, bacteria, heavy metals, PCBs, oil, microplastics, sunscreen chemicals, and nutrients from the water column.                                                                                                                       One adult Hawaiian Oyster (Dendostrea sandvicensis) can filter approximately 20 gallons of water per day.  Each ‘ohana of 25 oyster brothers and sisters can filter approximately 500 gallons of water per day. Your donation of $25.00 will support the cost of 25 oysters and the aquapurse that protects them from predation by crabs and other marine animals.  

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Waterkeepers in Hawai'i