Water Security


Hawai‘i's water resources are finite and fragile.

YPDA Hawai‘i supports legislation aimed and protecting and preserving Hawai‘i's vital freshwater resources and upholding the public trust doctrine within the state constitution. This means enforcing environmental protection laws, regulating industrial activities that threaten water supplies, ensuring the cleanup of contamination and prevention of future spills such as those at the Navy fuel facility at Red Hill, and defending the public's right to access water resources before private companies can make money off of them.


In January 2014, the U.S. Navy reported that 27,000 gallons of jet fuel leaked from a tank at its Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.  This facility holds twenty fuel storage tanks and is located a mere 100 feet above Oʻahu’s primary aquifer that serves over 600,000 residents from Hālawa to Hawaiʻi Kai.

Previous studies have shown this is not the first leak from this facility—since its construction in the 1940s, this facility has leaked as much as 200,000 gallons of fuel into the environment—and the groundwater beneath the tanks may already be contaminated with fuel.  YPDA Hawaii, along with the Sierra Club of Hawaii and other environmental watchdog groups, is concerned these tanks will continue to leak, posing a serious threat to the future of Oʻahu’s drinking water.

Despite these leaks and impending threats, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have released no plans for cleaning up the leaked fuel and offered no assurance that future leaks will not occur.  The EPA’s current plan only calls for the monitoring and renovating of these outdated tanks.

We are calling on the Hawaiʻi Department of Health, EPA, and U.S. Navy to: 

  • Install sufficient “sentinel” monitoring wells to guard public drinking water sources from possible contamination currently in the aquifer; 
  • Locate the fuel that has already leaked from the storage facility and clean it up; and 
  • Install genuine leak prevention systems, in addition to leak detection systems, that will guarantee there will be no future leaks from this facility. 

If these expectations cannot be met, then the obsolete fuel storage tanks at Red Hill should be retired, and the stored fuel relocated to modern and unhazardous facilities that comply with today’s strict environmental standards.  

The Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR), on December 9, 2016, voted to allow Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. (A&B) and its subsidiary East Maui Irrigation Company, Ltd. (EMI) the ability to continue diverting stream flow from approximately 120 East Maui streams to its land holdings in Upcountry and Central Maui. The board voted 5–2 to grant A&B and EMI the four permits the companies needed despite six hours worth of testimony from more than 40 individuals and organizations urging the board to deny the permits or, at the very least, postpone judgement until a proper hearing could be conducted on Maui in the community that will be affected by the decision. Board members Sam Ohu Gon III and Keoni Downey were the two ‘no’ votes.

The board’s decision to approve the renewal of the four revocable permits came with stipulations that at least are a step in the right direction. These stipulations include capping the amount of water A&B will be allowed to extract from the East Maui ecosystem at 80 million gallons per day (down from the previous 160 million gallons per day that the company has been taking up to this point), enforcing the July 2016 mandate that A&B fully restore stream flow in seven East Maui streams vital for taro farming, as well as adding Honomanu Stream to the list of the streams to be restored, and removing all structures adversely affecting the health of native stream species in the ecosystem.

While the BLNR members may have felt that, in adding these stipulations, they were striking a balance between the interests of the East Maui communities and the businesses that profit from the stream diversion, the ruling still falls far short of honoring the Hawaiʻi State Constitution’s “public trust doctrine” (contained within Article XI) and, therefore, signifies a failure on the part of the board to fulfill its fiduciary duty to the public.

Article XI (“Conservation, Control and Development of Resources”) states that:

For the benefit of present and future generations, the State and its political subdivisions shall conserve and protect Hawaiʻi’s natural beauty and all natural resources, including land, water, air, minerals and energy sources, and shall promote the development and utilization of these resources in a manner consistent with their conservation and in furtherance of the self-sufficiency of the State.
All public natural resources are held in trust by the State for the benefit of the people.

In granting A&B permits to divert water from East Maui streams—water that could otherwise be used by kalo farmers to feed their communities; water that, when diverted from its natural course, cannot maintain and regulate the precious ecosystem which endemic, endangered species rely on; water that sustains and empowers the communities that rely on it, connects Kanaka Maoli to their culture and shapes their identity—the BLNR has perpetuated a trend of state agencies and elected officials damaging that trust by clearly putting the interests of corporations before the interests of the people they serve.




Sierra Club of Hawaii

Red Hill has “high potential for catastrophic environmental loss”

Navy’s Insistence on Red Hill Fuel Tank Secrecy Raises Alarms

Fear drives House push to continue East Maui stream diversion

A public trust – for private benefit?