The Hilo Bay Waterkeeper works alongside the community to address the following threats to water quality:
Hilo Bay Waterkeeper is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance. Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement to protect water resources, currently uniting more than 350 Waterkeeper Organizations and Affiliates all focused on the vision of fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters. Waterkeepers patrol and protect approximately 2.6 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in 47 countries around the world. We are committed to finding solutions to reduce land-based pollutants and improve water quality.
While relatively calm, Hilo Bay is underutilized due to a heavy industrial boom in the mid-1900s that left the waters murky and the shoreline polluted. Adding to the challenge, stormwater, cesspools and antiquated forms of wastewater infrastructure contaminate the groundwater and compromise the area’s swimmable waters. Many of these pollutants remain trapped inside the Hilo Bay tsunami wall where there is little circulation.
With support from the County of Hawai‘i Office of Research and Development, Hilo Bay Waterkeeper and UH Hilo's Pacific Aquaculture & Coastal Resources Center are restoring native oysters and limu (seaweed) to Hilo Bay to remove nitrogen and other nutrients from the water which can lead to algal blooms.
An abundance of nitrogen accumulates in nearshore waters as stormwater transports fertilizers and other pollutants from agriculture, cesspools, and leaking wastewater infrastructure. Dr. Karla McDermid is leading the bioremediation efforts using native seaweeds and Dr. Maria Haws is directing efforts with native oysters.
Hilo Bay Waterkeeper and Applied Life Sciences, LLC have conducted water quality monitoring activities in the ocean since early 2018, using several markers to detect wastewater. This research has continued through the pandemic in 2020 and is used to identify land-based sources of pollution.
Hawai‘i’s rainforests have been heavily affected by Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD). ROD is a fungal disease that is decimating populations of ʻŌhi‘a (Metrosideros polymorpha). ʻŌhi‘a is the foundational tree of the Hawaiian forest. It is so well adapted for Hawai‘i’s volcanic landscape that it can pull moisture from the air and transfer that water to the ground below to recharge the aquifer. On Hawaiʻi Island, hundreds of thousands of ʻŌhiʻa trees have already died across thousands of acres.
The Hawai’i Department of Agriculture has imposed a quarantine that prohibits movement of all ‘ōhi’a plants or plant parts, including flowers, leaves, seeds, stems, twigs, logs, and soil between islands except by permit.
Follow this process before entering and after leaving any new area. Always clean hands and tools between taking plant material from different trees. Wash vehicles before and after traveling off road, especially tires and undercarriage. It is critical to remove all soil. When possible, substitute other flowers for lehua in lei making. If you continue to gather, please pick only the first four inches of ‘ōhi‘a stem tips (includes flowers and liko).
ROD is expected to result in declines in aquifer recharge related to decreases in rainfall.
Please keep these guidelines in mind:
Avoid areas confirmed to have Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death. Look for signage at trailheads. Always follow decontamination protocol: remove all soil from gear and shoes, then sanitize by spraying (saturate) using 70% rubbing alcohol.
Copyright © 2021 Waiwai Ola Waterkeepers Hawaiian Islands - All Rights Reserved.
Artwork by Solomon Enos.
Photo Credits: Waterkeeper Alliance photos: John Wathen; Oysters photos - Example of Black-lip Pearl Oysters Growing on Lines: Photo by Arthur Read, Smaller Native Hawaiian Oysters: Photo by Dr. Maria Haws; Painting of Queen Lili'uokalani from Ali'i Place: Photo by Rhiannon Chandler-'Iao