The Project Plan


The SMWP is a two year effort sponsored by the Central Maui Soil and Water Conservation District with the goal to  develop a plan for improved water quality in the Hapapa, Wailea, and Mo’oloa watersheds of South Maui. The planning area includes lands Mauka to Makai from Makena to Ma’alaea Bay.

Southwest maui Watershed Map

The process is part of an adaptive management cycle: Monitor, Assess, Report, Act (and back to Monitor). Monitoring is continuous. Assess = is it meeting goals? Report = States report their assessments to the EPA, which reports to Congress. Assess and Report happen every two years. Act = permitting, and planning.

management Cycle Image

Overview of SMWP and Watershed Planning Process
Funding for this project is provided under an EPA 319 grant. The watershed is defined based on hydrology and includes all waters above and below ground, and the ocean near shore. At minimum, the plan will provide for the waters to meet the basic Clean Water Act goals of being fishable and swimmable. Other Clean Water Act goals include 1) eliminating point source discharges of pollution, covered under NPDES permits regulating wastewater discharges from private industry and utilities, also construction site runoff (for sites larger than one acre); and 2) controlling non-point sources of pollution such as ag, and urban runoff. This is our main focus. We have to look at the whole, and measure the mass of pollutants. Knowing the pollutant sources, types, and amounts leads to management and planning.

The project began approximately 7 years ago. The goal is to develop a plan for improved water quality in the Hapapa, Wailea, and Mo’oloa watersheds of South Maui. The planning area includes lands mauka to makai from Makena through Kulanihakoi Gulch.

With all the mud impacts we have had this winter, questions have been raised as to what is happening in the watershed and is there anything that can be done to improve it. Through a rainfall analysis (using data from 1925 and 1940 to the present), the overall amount of rainfall seems to be declining, the spikes of rain events are more intense, and drought periods are longer and more severe . Overall weather patterns are becoming more intense. The data suggests that Maui data is reflecting global climate change trends reported elsewhere.

This watershed work is different than other watershed work on Maui as it is focused on water quality, identifying pollutant sources, and estimating the pollutant loads entering the waterbodies. Everything is becoming more quantitative. We are looking at pollutant sources, and will be recommending BMPs that we think will reduce loading from those sources, which is the first step in management.

The EPA watershed planning process uses a series of cooperative, interactive steps to characterize existing conditions, identify and prioritize problems, define management objectives, and develop and implement protection or remediation strategies as necessary. It has been developed to help communities, watershed organizations, state, local, tribal and federal environmental agencies develop and implement watershed plans to meet water quality standards and protect water resources.
Step 1   Build Partnerships
Step 2   Characterize the Watershed
Step 3   Set Goals and Identify Solutions
Step 4   Design Implementation Program
Step 5   Create Watershed Plan
Step 6   Implement Watershed Plan
Step 7   Measure Progress and Make Adjustments

The causes of pollution and the sources of it will be determined. The information is also being inventoried in order to identify data gaps (only existing data is being used). Once this step is completed, the group will identify solutions, set goals on how the watershed should function and give a value to measure success (what are the indicators and what are the targets). Eventually this will lead to an implementation plan.

We are contracted to have 4 public meetings. WAG meetings are every other month. Meeting notes from each meeting will be sent out to everyone on the email list. The grant requires a 50% community participation match. A list of services that the community could help with will be mailed to all participants. As long as the water quality is considered impaired by the Department of Health (it will continue to be monitored), funding will be available to reduce pollutant loads.

The group chose State-designated watershed units since it is working with State agencies. It was noted that these units are different than Federal and Hawaiian Ahupua`a units. The three units include: Hapapa, Wailea, and Mo’oloa . Unlike other watershed projects on the island, which have focused primarily on conservation at the top of the mountains, this watershed project extends from mauka to makai. It is the managing of all things in an integrated way. The State definition also describes humans as part of the ecosystem. Humans play an important role. Ecological Engineering is an emerging field that could be described as designing sustainable ecosystems which integrate human actions with the natural environment for the benefit of both. Richard commented that there might be numerous solutions which could be used throughout the watershed to solve some of the issues. Bringing stakeholders together to gain more knowledge about the entire area is critical to the success of the project.

The Department of Health monitors waterbodies such as the ocean. Areas around the island have been designated as impaired. “Impaired waters” means that the waterbody is not meeting the designated uses, such as: agricultural water sources, drinking water sources, industrial water sources, aquatic life propagation, native life propagation, recreation, fishing, etc. Manmade impacts to water quality on Maui are associated with population centers and land use patterns. It is vital to consider reducing pollutant loads, or in some cases maintaining a natural capacity, such as protecting wetlands. Water quality must be considered for future planning.

SC and WAG

The technical team supports the advisory group. Their role is to characterize the watershed and estimate pollution load and sources. Together, the WAG and technical team will identify best management practices to reduce pollutant loading and develop an implementation plan. Implementing the plan will be a follow-on project with separate funding.

Members' Participation - all are welcome

  • Native Hawaiians and those with roots in this area
  • The people from Nahiku and the West Side
  • Commercial interests: Such as tourism, hotel, real estate, construction, developers, retail.
  • Ranchers
  • Other ethnic groups; fishermen
  • County Council: Key to much local decision-making.
  • County Department of Public Works
  • Legislators

Robin Knox, Watershed Coordinator

Richard Sylva, Central Maui Soil & Water Conservation District

Pamela Kantarova


  • Public meeting planning: Teri Leonard, chair; Richard Sylva, Pamela Kantarova
  • Grant-writing: Michael Brady, chair; Luisa Castro, Julia Staley
  • Technical: Jacob Freeman, chair; Ellen Kraftsow

This project will quantify pollutant loads following seven steps (which are based on a nine-step EPA process):

1. Establish WAG
2. Education and Outreach Plan
3. Watershed characterization
4. Pollutant load estimates – calculate pollutant pounds per day from various sources
5. Watershed goals/objectives – some are laws, we set others
6. Pollution control strategies, such as wastewater treatment, and best management practices
7. Implementation plans – who will do what, and how will we fund it? This planning must be done before any other projects can take place. This plan establishes quantitative goals.

How we will develop our plan

  • Use the best available science and traditional ecological knowledge to develop logical plan and rationale
  • Recognize the interconnectedness of water resources mauka to makai (ahupua`a concept)
  • Optimize solutions to realize the greatest water quality benefits for the resources invested.
  • Create an adaptive management process with flexibility to adjust plans and strategies based on success of implementation
  • Gain commitment of stakeholders to the process

Here is the SMWP group’s input on broad goals:

  • Create a rational, logical plan; provide rationale for decisions
  • First identify the problems; your goals will be to get rid of the problems
  • Be consistent with Community Plans
  • Get the players at the table (e.g., Kihei Community Association)
  • Reefs are dying
  • Consider needs and usage: development (demand); water supply; storm water, drainage, flooding; pollution control
  • Pollutants associated
  • Silt runoff / sedimentation / pollutant
  • Erosion: others’ BMPs; siltation basins, swales etc.
  • Turbid water, has tourism ramifications
  • Resuspension
  • Airborne particles (dust and/or pathogens?)
  • Ocean water quality / public health / ocean illness
  • Coral disease montifera
  • Lack of fish
  • Wildland fires: stabilization, invasives, erosion, groundwater recharge, debris, human health & safety
  • Understand natural processes and function, and man-made components and processes
  • Understand critical conditions
  • Natural systems are complex; use a light touch / limit footprint
  • Flooding
  • Algae blooms
“This Project has been jointly funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("Agency") or ("EPA") under Section 319(h) of the Clean Water Act, and the Hawaii State Department of Health, Clean Water Branch. Although the information in this document has been funded wholly or in part by a Federal Grant to the Hawaii State Department of Health, it may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and the Hawaii State Department of Health and no official endorsement should be inferred.”