Last September, Dr. Rick Bennett spoke to a virtual crowd about water quality in West Hawai'i and the microbial risks associated with ocean recreation. He explained how our government monitors water quality and the research Kona Coast Waterkeeper is conducting to identify sources of wastewater and nutrient pollution.
Please help us further our mission for clean water on the Kona Coast. Your support enables us to meet our goals to improve the quality of our nearshore waters.
We are already beginning to see the impacts of climate change. The dark green algal bloom pictured below took place in May 2020. Kailua Bay has experienced two additional algal blooms since then. In the summer of 2020, bays from Kawaihae to Keauhou bloomed as well. These blooms are likely an early indication of climate change impacts including record high tides that are eroding shorelines and sweeping new sources of phosphorus and nitrogen into our waters. In addition, summer storms washed land-based pollutants to the nearshore waters. This abundance of nutrients, met with warming waters, is causing algal blooms in West Hawai'i, along the West Coast of North America, and around the world.
The artificial sweetener Sucralose (Splenda) is a very widely used sugar substitute. It is an ingredient in over 400 consumer products. As a chlorinated carbohydrate, it is not digestible and not metabolized by bacteria in the gut or environment. Sucralose survives a wide variety of wastewater treatment processes with very little and insignificant degradation from oxidation or UV irradiation.
Optical Brighteners (OBs) are chemicals found in laundry detergent designed to “brighten” white clothes. Like Sucralose, OBs can be used to detect the presence of wastewater, specifically, greywater, in the ocean. Sites where both Sucralose and OBs are present in detectable concentrations strengthens the likelihood of possible wastewater leakage in the area.
Using standard methods for water characteristics like temperature and salinity, much can be learned about nearshore and offshore waters. Low temperatures represent submarine groundwater discharge areas that are often rich with nutrients including fertilizers and wastewater.
Waterkeepers are working to identify areas where wastewater is entering the water so that we can work backwards to identify and address infrastructure issues such as cesspools, septic tanks, and leaking sewer pipes along the Kona Coast.
The presence alone of wastewater does not equate directly to a health risk and this information is not intended to replace information provided by the Hawai'i Department of Health (DOH). For DOH information about water quality near you, click on the link below.
Kona Coast 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 in over 47 countries. Under the local leadership of Kona Coast Waterkeeper Dr. Rick Bennett, our collective mission is fishable, swimmable, drinkable and reusable waters. The organization is committed to finding solutions to reduce land-based pollutants and improve water quality.
We are in the early planning stages with community, business and government in an effort to bring the first native oyster restoration to Honokohau Harbor to help improve water quality. We can't wait!
Kona Coast Waterkeeper is working with local watershed coordinators and private landowners to plant the native trees that will be critical to future rainfall in West Hawai'i.
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