"Lahaina’s Deadly Fire Has Intensified Maui’s Fight Over Water Rights"

"Native Hawaiians say the tragedy is being used as a pretext to roll back their gains in securing water supplies".

"KIHEI, MAUI — Just up the mountain from Lahaina where so many of his friends lost their homes, Ku’uleialoha Palakiko recently walked through his family’s ancestral farm land, which is thick with tall dry grasses.

“We live in a super dry area. It’s a tinder box here,” said Palakiko, a Native Hawaiian farmer. Nearby, he is irrigating plots of taro that are fed by a small stream diverted from the Kaua’ula Stream flowing from the mountain above, in a system called an 'auwai that is centuries old.

“If we take too much water,” he explained, “the land is depleted. Then we rectify that by putting more water back where it needs to be.”

He and other Native Hawaiians in Maui have spent years fighting for a greater say in how one of their most valued resources — water — is diverted and allocated. Now, in the wake of wind-whipped blazes that ripped through Maui, they say they are being scapegoated by Hawaii government officials and developers, who say water needs to flow more freely for fire protection."

Elahe Izadi and Zoeann Murphy report for the Washington Post August 23, 2023.

Source: Washington Post, 08/24/2023