City Plans to Gauge Climatic Changes

Article excerpt

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply plans to spend an estimated $9.5 million on a 30-year master plan that will include an investigation of how climate change could affect the island's water resources and delivery system.

The plan, which will be conducted in three phases over the next 21?2 years, will also have an assessment of the condition of BWS?pipelines and other infrastructure, and will determine capital improvement priorities for the future.

"The idea is to develop a 30-year upgrade and replacement program," said BWS?Manager and Chief Engineer Ernest Lau. "It provides the department a road map into the future."

This is the first time BWS has undertaken an effort of this scope to determine the effects of global warming on its infrastructure and its water supply.

Scientists predict sea levels will rise in Hawaii by 1 meter in 100 years, causing flooding in several areas and potentially damaging infrastructure.

Climate change is also expected to result in less rainfall.

"If we become drier, we need to (ask), How do we handle that?" Lau said.

Lau said the plan will not only inform upcoming work, but could identify potential cost-saving opportunities by determining whether some aging pipes that are scheduled for replacement might have some more life to them.

City Council members support the board's efforts to kick off a long-term planning effort, though they said they would look into why the plan has such a big price tag.

City Councilman Stanley Chang, chairman of the Public Works and Sustainability Committee, said many of the island's water mains are "decades if not a century old," so it's time to start planning for their replacement or repair.

He added that he doesn't want the plan to spur massive capital improvements that are covered solely by increases in water rates.

"Water rates are already very high," Chang said, adding he will encourage the Board of Water Supply?to "not just look at raising rates as the only possible solution for raising resources."

The masterplanning comes as the board is in the midst of a five-year, $345 million capital improvement plan that was kicked off in mid-2011. The CIP?plan includes replacing 40 miles of pipeline and repairing 216 wells and booster stations.

To help pay for the improvements, the board approved a 70 percent increase in water rates over five years in 2011. More recently the board has eyed the possibility of redeveloping parking areas at its Beretania Street complex as a way of generating revenue. …