LAHAINA, Hawaii — Water service was restored to Kauaula Valley families who live on kuleana lands, which are ancestral lands adjacent to Kauaula Stream, and Kamehameha Schools tenant farmers. 

The West Maui stream is used by kuleana families for drinking, bathing, heating, cooking, kalo farming, and other traditional practices, according to court documents. 

What You Need To Know

  • Launiupoko Irrigation Co. diverts water from the Kauaula Stream, which is used by kuleana families and Kamehameha School tenant farmers

  • On April 13, water service for the kuleana families and tenant farmers was suddenly shut off

  • On April 19, a judge ordered the restoration of the water service to these families and farmers 

  • The case stems back to 2003 when Launiupoko Irrigation Co. agreed to provide continuous water service to the kuleana families and farmers

On Tuesday, Judge Kirstin Hamman in the Second Circuit Court issued a 10-day stay to force Launiupoko Irrigation Co. to restore water service to families and farmers in Kauaula Valley. 

This water issue stems back to a legal settlement in 2003 with Kauaula Valley kuleana families, when West Maui Land and its subsidiaries, which includes the public utility Launiupoko Irrigation Co., agreed to upgrade its water system and provide uninterrupted water delivery.

In 2018, the Commission on Water Resource Management changed the instream flow standards to limit the amount of water Launiupoko Irrigation Co. could take from the Kauaula Stream. However, two years later, CWRM filed a notice of alleged violation to Launiupoko Irrigation for taking more water than permitted. 

The court filing from last week said on April 13 with no prior warning the families of Kauaula Valley found their water supply had been cut off. 

"West Maui Land broke its promise. It's not just a sharp business practice. It's immoral to deprive honest, working people of their only source of water," said Lance D. Collins, one of the kuleana families' attorneys, in a press release. 

During a hearing on Thursday, Launiupoko Irrigation updated the court that they would restore the water that day. The judge set a status conference for April 29 and said her order to require delivery of water remained in effect.

Collins told Spectrum News Hawaii in an email that the water was restored to the Kamehameha Schools tenant farmers and many of the kuleana families that he represents by Thursday, but it was not restored to the Kapu family until late Friday.

When asked by Spectrum News Hawaii why the Kapu family did not receive water at the same time as other kuleana families, Collins said that Launiupoko Irrigation Co. claimed it was because the Kapu family are at a different elevation, but he asserted that like all the kuleana families they are below the water diversion.

Spectrum News Hawaii reached out to Launiupoko Irrigation Co. for a response but did not immediately hear back. 

Michelle Broder Van Dyke covers the Hawaiian Islands for Spectrum News Hawaii.