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Ground-Water Availability in the Wailuku Area, Maui, Hawai'i

April 10, 2009

Most of the public water supply in Maui, Hawai'i, is from a freshwater lens in the Wailuku area of the island. Because of population growth, ground-water withdrawals from wells in this area increased from less than 10 Mgal/d during 1970 to about 23 Mgal/d during 2006. In response to increased withdrawals from the freshwater lens in the Wailuku area, water levels declined, the transition zone between freshwater and saltwater became shallower, and the chloride concentrations of water pumped from wells increased. These responses led to concern over the long-term sustainability of withdrawals from existing and proposed wells.

A three-dimensional numerical ground-water flow and transport model was developed to simulate the effects of selected withdrawal and recharge scenarios on water levels, on the transition zone between freshwater and saltwater, and on surface-water/ground-water interactions. The model was constructed using time-varying recharge, withdrawals, and ocean levels. Hydraulic characteristics used to construct the model were initially based on published estimates but ultimately were varied to obtain better agreement between simulated and measured water levels and salinity profiles in the modeled area during the period 1926-2006. Scenarios included ground-water withdrawal at 2006 and 1996 rates and locations with average recharge (based on 2000-04 land use and 1926-2004 rainfall) and withdrawal at redistributed rates and locations with several different recharge scenarios. Simulation results indicate that continuing 1996 and 2006 withdrawal distributions into the future results in decreased water levels, a thinner freshwater lens, increased salinity from pumped wells, and higher salinity at several current withdrawal sites.

A redistributed withdrawal condition in which ground-water withdrawal was redistributed to maximize withdrawal and minimize salinities in the withdrawn water was determined. The redistributed withdrawal simulates 27.1 Mgal/d of withdrawal from 14 wells or well fields in the Wailuku area. Simulation results from the five scenarios that include redistributed withdrawal conditions indicate the following for the Wailuku Aquifer Sector: (1) withdrawal during times of average recharge rates cause average water levels to decrease 2-3 ft and the transition zone to become more than 200 ft shallower after 150 years; (2) a 5-yr drought condition similar to the 1998-2002 drought results in additional salinity increases after 30 years (12.5 years of normal recharge after drought conditions) but only one well has salinity increases of concern; (3) additional recharge from restored streamflow significantly increases water levels, thickens the freshwater body, and decreases salinity at withdrawal sites in the Waihe'e and 'Iao Aquifer Systems; and (4) a complete removal of irrigation recharge decreases water levels and increases salinity in the central isthmus where irrigation is reduced, but recharge through restored streams still significantly increases water levels, thickens the freshwater body, and decreases salinity at withdrawal sites in the Waihe'e and 'Iao Aquifer Systems.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2008
Title Ground-Water Availability in the Wailuku Area, Maui, Hawai'i
DOI 10.3133/sir20085236
Authors Stephen B. Gingerich
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2008-5236
Index ID sir20085236
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Islands Water Science Center