100 years

Strengthen Hawai‘i’s Communities
Fresh Water Security for Hawai‘i

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Fresh Water

Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, it’s easy for those of us in Hawai‘i to appreciate that water covers 70% of Earth’s surface. Harder to fathom is the fact that only three percent of the earth’s water is fresh, and less than one percent supports all life on land. The stark difference between “wet” and “dry” sides of our Islands has made water management pivotal in Hawai‘i’s history. Add to that a decrease of rainfall of 18 percent over the last 30 years; a population that has doubled since 1959; record levels of visitors; the reality that half of Hawai‘i’s watershed forests have been destroyed… and the result is a potential fresh water crisis.

Against this uncertain backdrop, HCF created the Wai Maoli: Hawai‘i Fresh Water Initiative in 2013, which is currently supported by a funding partnership of 10 additional funders. The Fresh Water Initiative is designed to pro-actively address and resolve water supply issues. In order to tackle this important issue, HCF invited stakeholders from all sides of the issue — agriculture, private landowners, scientists, and government officials — to convene as a Fresh Water Council (Council).

“We need to sustain and create a culture for us
as a community, appreciating, understanding,
and leading how we manage both our ground water
and freshwater systems in Hawai‘i.”


Fresh Water Advisory Council

Stephen Anthony

Steve is the former Director of the USGS Pacific Islands Water Science Center (PIWSC). The mission of the USGS PIWSC is to provide reliable, impartial, and timely information to help manage, protect, and enhance water resources in Hawai‘i and the Pacific. The USGS is a science organization that provides information on a range of natural resources.

Michael Buck, Member-at-Large

Mike is the former Administrator of the Hawai‘i Division of Forestry and Wildlife, and the former Commissioner of the Hawai‘i State Commission on Water Resources Management. He played a leadership role in establishing Hawai‘i’s regional watershed partnerships with public and private landowners.

Dawn Naomi S. Chang

Dawn Chang, Esq. is the first-ever Native Hawaiian female Chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. She served 14 years as Deputy Attorney General with the Hawai’i Office of the Attorney General-Land/Transportation Division and counsel to various State Boards and Commissions. In 2016, Ms. Chang was appointed and confirmed to the State Land Use Commission and served until 2022.

Meredith Ching

Meredith is senior vice president at Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. She serves on a number of professional and nonprofit boards including the Land Use Research Foundation and Hawai‘i Agricultural Foundation. Previously, she served on the State of Hawai‘i Commission on Water Resource Management and the State Board of Agriculture.

Ka‘eo Duarte (Chair)

Ka‘eo Duarte is Vice President of Community & ‘Āina Resiliency Group at Kamehameha Schools. His research interests include hydrology, water management, coastal processes, ecohydrology, and indigenous knowledge systems. He holds a Ph.D. in environmental engineering, specializing in hydrology, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Harold Edwards

Harold Edwards is the President & CEO of ITC Water Management, Inc. ITC is a Design/Build Construction Company involved in many aspects of water infrastructure including master planning for large scale irrigation systems, private subdivision water system design including dual water and low pressure wastewater systems, consulting for private water systems regulatory approvals, reuse plans and approvals, as well as stocking distributors for several specialty products related to the water industry and systems operations.

Mark Fox

Raised on Hawaiʻi island, Mark is the former Director of External Affairs at The Nature Conservancy’s Hawaiʻi Program where his work included public policy and advocacy related to natural resources. Mark formerly served on the Washington staff of U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, handling environment and agriculture issues, and before that practiced law at Carlsmith Ball LLP in Honolulu.

Thomas Giambelluca

Tom serves as a professor in the Geography Department at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and focuses his work on conducting field and modeling projects on climate and natural vegetation, restoration of degraded lands, and water resource management under changing land uses and the impacts of climate change.

Ernest Lau

As manager and chief engineer at the Honolulu Board of Water Supply since 2012, Ernie is responsible for its overall strategic direction and management. Ernie previously worked as deputy director of the State Commission on Water Resource Management and as the manager and chief engineer of the Kaua‘i Department of Water.

Keith Okamoto

Keith began with the Department of Water Supply on Hawai‘i Island in 1996 as a licensed civil engineer in the Water Resources and Planning Branch of the Engineering Division. Throughout the years, he has worked in various positions and branches. Since July 2015, Keith has served as the Manager-Chief Engineer of the Department of Water Supply.

LeeAnn Silva

LeeAnn is fortunate to have spent almost all of her professional career serving three of Hawaii’s aliʻi trusts – Kamehameha Schools, Liliʻuokalani Trust, and currently Queen Emma Land Company. She has had the benefit of working with and learning from some of the best minds in real estate, education, social enterprise, endowment management and non-profit governance. LeeAnn is active in the community, serving on a variety of non-profit boards, currently focusing on MAʻO Organic Farms and the Institute for Human Services.

Kapua Sproat

Kapua was born and raised on Kaua‘i’s North Shore, and received her Juris Doctor from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UH). After serving as counsel for Earthjustice’s Mid-Pacific Office and working on several high-profile water cases, Kapua returned to UH as a professor with the Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law and director of the Environmental Law Clinic.

Joseph “Joe” Tait

Joe is the County of Kaua‘i Manager and Chief Engineer of the Department of Water. Prior to the Department of Water, he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and managed organizational competitiveness programs and operating improvement projects throughout the western U.S. from Anchorage to Salt Lake City and Los Angeles to Honolulu. He has also served on public utility and water industry association national boards such as the American Water Works Association, AWWA Research Foundation and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies.

Barry Usagawa

Barry heads the Water Resources Division of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, which consists of Water Systems Planning, Water Conservation, Long Range Planning, and the Hydrology-Geology Sections. Water Resources conducts long-range water resource and capital planning for O‘ahu to ensure adequate water supplies and dependable water systems.

The result? A Blueprint for Action with a goal of providing 100 million gallons a day of additional reliable fresh water supply by 2030 via clear solutions that have broad, multiparty support. HCF’s approach and unique position in the community provided the space and structure to bring together the diverse stakeholders, find common ground and ultimately come to agreement.

A blue document cover features a group of smiling children. Text reads: Wai Maoli, Hawaii'i Fresh Water Initiative  

Unlike many Blue Ribbon Panels that disband after issuing their report, members of the Council have agreed to continue working together to help implement the recommendations. Water, as we know, is essential to life. And collaboration, we’ve found, is essential to protecting our quality of life in Hawai‘i.

To achieve this goal, the council identified three aggressive targets and strategies.

A blue graphic features three strategies for the Fresh Water Initiative: Conserve, Recharge, Reuse.

The team approach is already paying off. The Fresh Water Initiative is working to implement a strong, proactive agenda to protect Hawai‘i’s fresh water future, and avoid costly problems down the road. The Blueprint for Action lays a foundation for a sustainable water future for our state. Thus far it has helped support and pass 12 key state and county policy actions that will improve Hawai‘i’s ability to capture, reuse, and store fresh water—making us all a little more secure. Coordinated outreach and capacity building are also underway as implementation of the Fresh Water Blueprint for Action kicks into higher gear. The Blueprint for Action offers Hawai‘i’s decision makers a new vision and clear recommendations for policy changes and actions that have broad, multi-party support.

There are many cautionary tales around the world. In April 2018, Cape Town, South Africa came extremely close to “Water Day Zero” but through aggressive restrictions on personal and agricultural water have bought themselves a bit more time. Other cities like Mexico City, Melbourne, Jakarta, London, Beijing, Istanbul, Tokyo, Bangalore, and the U.S. State of California have all experienced severe water shortages and at current rates global demand is projected to surpass supply by 20301.

1Laudicina, Paul, “Water Day Zero Coming To A City Near You”, Forbes. June 7, 2018.

Funding Opportunities

Check back later for upcoming funding opportunities!

Questions? Please email us at Environment@hcf-hawaii.org.

Hawaiian Islands Environmental Finance Center

In 2023, HCF launched the Hawaiian Islands Environmental Finance Center, a Category 2 – Regional Water Infrastructure EFC with BIL funding, to support long-term water sustainability and water infrastructure resilience across the state of Hawai‘i.

HCF was awarded a $3.2 million dollar grant by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish this environmental finance center (EFC), which, along with other EFCs across the nation, serves as a vital resource for communities to access federal funding for infrastructure projects that improve public health and environmental protection. This grant is a direct result of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which delivers more than $50 billion to EPA over five years to improve water infrastructure across the nation, and the HIEFC is committed to assisting partners with identifying and applying for these funding opportunities as they become available.

The Hawaiian Islands Environmental Finance Center (HIEFC) will focus its efforts on supporting nonprofits, community organizations, and government agencies with building their capacity to secure federal funding, as well as strengthening workforce development in the water sector to ensure long-term labor forces in this field.

For more information, visit www.hawaiianislandsefc.org or email hiefc@hcf-hawaii.org.

See press release: Hawaii Community Foundation Launches State's First Environmental Finance Center

Watch the Fresh Water Initiative featured on Voice of the Sea

Conserving Water: Everyone plays a role in making Hawai‘i's water situation better - from the plants you choose for your garden to the pipes/fixtures you use in your plumbing. This Voice of the Sea episode explores how to protect our fresh water resources in our homes and communities.VOS6-2 Full Episode - Conserving Fresh Water from Voice of The Sea TV on Vimeo.

Native Forests: This episode features conversations with hydrologists and ecological experts working to conserve and re-establish native plants and animals in watershed forests—in an effort to not only preserve the ʻaina but also to recharge the underground aquifers that feed the Hawaiian islands with fresh water.VOS6-6 Full Episode - Native Forests from Voice of The Sea TV on Vimeo.

Water Reuse: This episode introduces the newest strategies in Hawai‘i for recycling wastewater to help protect our fresh water supply and the environment. Recycling and Reusing our fresh water will not only help protect our fresh water supply for future generations, but also help to protect the environment by keeping fresh water in local streams and underground aquifers and preventing excess nutrients from going into the ocean and onto our reefs.VOS6-7 Full Episode - Water Reuse from Voice of The Sea TV on Vimeo.

Wai Maoli: Featuring Hawai’i’s Fresh Water Initiative to ensure water abundance for future generations. This episode starts off with Dana Okano from the Hawai’i Community Foundation to learn more about the Fresh Water Initiative and its importance for the people of Hawai’i.VOS6-8 Full Episode - Wai Maoli from Voice of The Sea TV on Vimeo.


Interested in learning more about our Fresh Water Intiative or getting involved with other environmental programs?

Contact the Environment Program by calling 808.566.5533, or by email at environment@hcf-hawaii.org.