The Rain Follows the Forest – A Plan to Replenish Hawaii’s Source of Water

The Department of Land and Natural Resources released a plan to ensure mauka watersheds are fully functioning so fresh water resources can be utilized and enjoyed by the people of Hawaii in perpetuity.

Click picture to read the plan


  • The Rain Follows the Forest seeks to ensure mauka watersheds are fully functioning so fresh water resources can be utilized and enjoyed by the people of Hawai`i in perpetuity. This plan implements the central goals of the Abercrombie administration’s A New Day in Hawaii plan to steward the natural resources that our survival, economy, and quality of life depend on.
  • The Rain Follows the Forest provides policy solutions to manage invasive species, increase Hawaii’s ability to withstand impacts from climate change, and restore capabilities of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) by finding additional sources of funding.
  • Hawaii’s water supplies are under threat from hotter and drier conditions from climate change, as well as loss of watershed forests.
  • Over half of Hawaii’s forests have been lost. Invasive alien (non-native) species trample and devour vegetation, leaving bare ground or openings for alien plants that consume more water and increase runoff. Controlling these and other threats while also re-planting forests requires a large-scale effort.
  • Protecting mauka forest areas is the most cost effective and efficient way to absorb rainwater and replenish groundwater. The Hawaiian islands’ sustainability and continued over-all well being of its residents and future generations depends on the continued health of the upland forests.
  • In addition to protecting our water supply, the protection of forests is essential to prevent erosion that muddies beaches, coral reefs, and fisheries, reduce Hawaii’s greenhouse gas emissions, and protect the native plants and animals unique to our islands.
  • Currently only 10% of the priority watershed areas are protected, a level of management that has taken 40 years to achieve. DLNR’s goal is double the level of protection in the next ten years, which will require approximately $11 million a year. If funded, this initiative will create over 150 local jobs.
  • In an October 2011 statewide telephone poll of 700 residents, 78% of respondents were supportive of increased funding for watershed protection from $1 million to $11 million per year. A majority supported increased general funding (mean support was 7.4 out of 10), the use of environment-related taxes (7.4 out of 10), or a visitor-related tax (8.0 out of 10). Further, 59% of respondents indicated the urgent need to increase the protection of the sources (upland forests) of our fresh water supply, and rated the urgency to protect these sources at 8.4 out of 10, with 10 representing “Extremely Urgent.”
  • The Rain Follows the Forest identifies priority watersheds and outlines on-the-ground actions and projects required to protect and sustain Hawaii’s critical water sources. To be successful, these actions must occur on a large scale across ownership boundaries, through agreements and leveraged funds provided by the statewide watershed partnerships.


  • A century-long trendi of declining rainfall has accelerated, with a 12% decline in the last 20 years alone.
  • Groundwater head levels in Pearl Harbor, which supplies over 60% of Oahu’s municipal water, declined by half since 1910.
  • Hawaii’s native forests absorb moisture from rainfall and passing clouds that condense on the thick vegetation. Intercepting cloud drip increases water capture by as much as 30% of rainfall, and increases groundwater re-supply by On Lāna`i, fog water supplies even more water than direct rainfall.  There, loss of the forest’s fog capture would reduce by half the island’s only water supply.
  • Water users already pay for the loss of native forests – and those costs are high. Invasive and widespread strawberry guava evapotranspires 27%-53%ix more water than native forests, causing extensive water loss across landscapes. For example, in East Hawai`i invasive plants have already reduced estimated groundwater recharge by 85 million gallons a day.
  • Even a small percentage reduction in groundwater recharge can be costly. One study indicates that a 1% loss of recharge in the Ko`olau Mountains could cost O`ahu $42 million net present value. Another study indicates that a 10% loss of recharge in the Ko`olau Mountains could cost $1.7 million per year – over $173 million net present value.  The gradual invasion of alien plants into native forests may have already reduced the estimated groundwater recharge by up to 10% in certain aquifers.
  • A University of Hawai`i study examined the various services provided by Oahu’s Ko‘olau forests—including water recharge, water quality, climate control, biodiversity, and cultural, aesthetic, recreational, and commercial values. These services were calculated to have a net present value of between $7.4 and $14 billion.


  • The importance of forests for water has long been recognized – expressed in the ancient Hawaiian proverb “Hahai no ka ua i ka ululā`au” (the rain follows the forest). Protecting these forests has been codified into Hawaii’s customs and laws. In 1876, King David Kalākaua signed an Act for the Protection and Preservation of Woods and Forests. The Act included the construction of fences and barriers to prevent hooved animal trespass into forests important for water resources. In 1893, Queen Lili‘uokalani established the Bureau of Agriculture and Forestry for the “preservation of forests,” among other purposes. Following this, Article XI of the Constitution of the State of Hawaii includes the protection of all natural resources, held in the public trust.
  • This plan perpetuates ancient traditions of protecting and respecting the sacred wao akua -misty upland forests. The plants and wildlife within them are individually revered in Hawaiian traditions as manifestations of gods, or used for medicines, offerings, or other material needs.
  • Actions in this plan enhance these cultural practices by protecting these native natural and cultural resources from damage and extinction. Caring for these resources has been a way of life in Hawaiian traditions. Access to priority protected areas for traditional Hawaiian cultural practices is not restricted by this plan. In DOFAW areas, step-overs and gates will allow continued public access into fenced areas.
  • Although ungulate hunting is a contemporary recreational activity and a source of food for some, hunting (pig hunting in particular) is not a traditional Hawaiian practice. Reviews of firsthand testimonies in more than 60,000 native Hawaiian land documents dating from 1846 to 1910 revealed many references to pigs, but nearly every reference was in the context of them being near-home and being cared for (raised), not hunted.
  • On Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) lands, public hunting will be a priority action in the first stage of ungulate removal in fenced areas wherever safe, feasible, and effective, and DOFAW will encourage and facilitate hunting access in other areas.
  • Fencing core areas within the priority I and II watersheds will be incremental, and will gradually reduce public ungulate hunting areas over this century. Once all of the priority watersheds are fenced, public ungulate hunting areas will be reduced by approximately 30%.  Approximately four percent of DOFAW lands are currently fenced.
  • This plan seeks to increase public access to enjoy and learn about the forests that help to sustain Hawaii. This will help to build an informed citizenry of life-long learners who value Hawaii’s uniqueness and live sustainably. Maintaining and creating access and trails will teach communities about the benefits of forests during volunteer trips and hikes.
  • As part of the local jobs that this initiative seeks to fund, DLNR will support continued and expanded programs that provide local youth jobs and career opportunities during in-the-field internships. This will instill current and future generations with a sense of kuleana to respect and give back to the life-giving forests.

State to Charge for Hapuna BEACH Access

Am I missing something here… How is it possible for the State to charge folks for access to the ocean?

I understand Hapuna Beach being a State Park… but at what point can the State charge folks for water access?

From today’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald:

…In June, the DLNR’s state board approved a plan for parking and entrance fees at eight parks throughout the islands, including Iao Valley and Makena on Maui, Hapuna and Akaka Falls on the Big Island, and Kokee and Haena on Kauai. Visitors have been paying the fees at Oahu’s Diamond Head and Pali Lookout parks for some time, he said…

[polldaddy poll=4193329]

*Updated Video Working* Brief History of Water Rights in Hawaii

Earth Justice attorney Issac Muriwake gives a summary of the last 150 years of Water Law in Hawaii. An eye-opening, informative video captured on Earth Day at a film screening of “The Water Front”, held at Mau Community College and sponsored by Maui Tomorrow Foundation.