With the historic November 2022 passage of Charter Amendment 12, establishing the East Maui Community Water Authority, there is hope, for the first time in 145 years, that the people of Maui will finally gain control over the island’s largest public water source.
Progressive Source produced a video endorsement of Maui’s Charter Amendment 12 and the Maui County Council’s progressive Onipa’a slate. We produced this endorsement video with narration and scripting assistance by former council member and native Hawai’ian farmer and water protector Alika Atay. The video, which was financed with the support of Hale Akua organic farm owner and activist Lori Grace, was viewed more than 80,000 times by Maui residents over the age of 18.
The charter amendment victory followed a contentious race. Eight progressive candidates, united as Onipa’a 2022, ran on a platform focused on protecting the island’s fragile resources. They faced off against a group of far better funded corporation-friendly candidates seeking to turn back the clock to the days when developers and agrochemical companies controlled our county government.
Charter Amendment 12 passed by a three-to-one margin, with 33,350 yes votes to 11,373 no votes. This resounding victory makes clear that the people of Maui’s want an ethical, transparent, and sustainable management system for the island’s water supply.
Prior to the passage of the new Amendment, most of Maui’s fresh water was controlled by the Alexander and Baldwin (“A&B”) company since it completed a massive 17 mile aqueduct in 1878 that carried water from the rainy region of East Maui to the plantations in the east. As the Maui Independent revealed in this startling expose six years ago, A&B consumed more than 80% of all public water used in Maui for more than a century. During the final field-burning years of Maui’s massive sugar plantations, the state charged A&B, the largest public company in Hawai’i, just $3 per million gallons of water, while charging Maui’s small farmers, indigenous people and homeowners $4,000 for the same million gallons.
The new East Maui Community Water Authority will establish local water boards drawn from community members. Rather than the mayor, these local boards will be responsible for hiring the director in charge of the water authority. Councilmember Shane M. Sinenci, who ran and won on the ‘Onipa’a ticket, has said that the authority is especially concerned with the Nāhiku, Keʻanae, Honomanū and Huelo license areas. In December the Council began accepting applications for members of the powerful new board, a process that is ongoing.
“I’m hopeful that the people have an opportunity to participate in the direction of the use of water,” said Alika Atay. “In the past, people didn’t have a say. So this new Water Authority allows We, people, to have participation. It gives people an opportunity to be at the table.”