‍Watersheds and Nearshore Waters
Updated over a week ago

The DOH, State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), County of Maui, the University of Hawaii (UH) and many conservation groups are working collaboratively to monitor impacts and protect watersheds, nearshore waters, and coastal ecosystems.

Many efforts serve to protect both watersheds and nearshore waters. For example, following the fires, the County of Maui’s Department of Public Works (DPW) immediately deployed Best Management Practices (BMPs) within the burned area to protect drainage systems and waterways. Filter socks and straw waddles have been placed around drain inlets and catch basins throughout the town. Turbidity curtains and check dams have also been installed downstream of burned structures where there is potential to direct runoff toward the ocean. DPW continues to develop and innovate BMPs related to the burn area.

The Army Corps of Engineers is also expediting the removal of ash and debris to limit exposure to near shore waters and watersheds.

Nearshore Waters

A number of groups are working together to monitor nearshore water quality and protect critical ecosystems and reefs.

DOH’s clean water branch continues to conduct coastal water surveillance and watershed-based environmental management to protect coastal and inland water resources. DOH also provides constantly updated water quality monitoring information and advisories.

In September, DLNR, in collaboration with USGS, began collecting data through sampling instruments in the waters just off the coast of West Maui. The sophisticated sampling instruments mimic what a living creature would absorb in order to understand exposure to fire related impacts.

In October, UH and the Pacific Whale Foundation installed water quality sensors in ocean waters around the Lahaina impact zone. UH has identified a wide range of partners and collaborators on their research and protection efforts, which include DLNR, the West Maui Watershed and Coastal Management program, the DOH, the UH Maui College water quality lab, Hui o Ka Wai Ola, the Pacific Whale Foundation, and members of the Lahaina community.

According to the University of Hawaii “the UH team is working collaboratively with the community and county, state and federal experts to identify the pollutants and assess their abundance and ultimately determine if they will alter the ecosystem and affect its resilience in the future. The team was awarded a rapid response grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the immediate impacts from the contaminants created by the fire.”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is also working to prevent ash tainted with contaminants from blowing or washing into the ocean. The application of soil stabilizer Soiltac not only protects air quality, but also mitigates runoff and water contamination. Additionally, the EPA has done extensive hazardous waste removal to ensure that high-risk hazards and contaminants are removed from the fire impacted areas.

Nearshore Water Resources

University of Hawaii News : UH researchers investigate nearshore water quality, reef health after Maui fires

Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR)News and Information

StateDepartment of Health, Clean Water Branch:Water Quality Advisory Information

Watershed Protection

The County of Maui’s Department of Public Works has been implementing a range of projects within burned areas to protect drainage systems and waterways. Implementing best management practices around drain inlets and catch basins serves to protect watersheds and offer environmental protection.

The County and Maui Soil & Water Conservation districts have been working with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Pacific Islands Area office to secure critically needed federal funding and technical assistance through its Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program.

The EWP program is designed to safeguard life and property from imminent hazards caused by natural disasters. The SWCDs of Olinda-Kula, West Maui and Central Maui have collectively applied to partner with NRCS as the EWP Program Sponsor.

Watershed protection and prevention of soil erosion efforts are being deployed to prevent infrastructure damage and flooding that can threaten structures and lands downstream of burned areas. Some possible upcoming EWP projects include appropriate revegetation efforts to stabilize soil and prevent erosion; controls to protect the young plants from feral deer; restoration of water systems; and removal of large quantities of debris from difficult terrain.

In addition to watershed protection efforts, water systems and drinking water sources continue to undergo extensive testing from the Maui County Department of Water Supply, DOH, and EPA. To learn more about drinking water advisories and monitoring efforts, visit https://www.mauirecovers.org/utilities.

Watershed Protection Resources

University of Hawaii at Manoa, Water Resources Research Center: Maui Post-Fire CommunityDrinking-Water Information Hub

Maui Soil & Water Conservation Districts: Website and Information

Did this answer your question?