The general consensus of hydrologists not hired by the developer is that there are serious questions about the long-term supply of water available to the Kohalal Ranch wells.  In October of 2005, Kelly Pomeroy released a report she had compiled of everything she could find about water resources in the Kohala Ranch area.  You can read it by following the link below, but be forewarned that you may find it it difficult to follow.  It's technical in parts, and every expert has a different opinion, which makes for confusion.

If you prefer to have us mail you a copy, send $5 to Concerned Kohala Ranch Property Owners, 59-148 Olomana Rd., Kamuela HI 96743.  It runs to thirty-one pages.

Here is the executive summary from page 1:


Executive Summary

Kohala Ranch covers some 4000 acres between the mountain and coast roads on the leeward side of the Big Island, just inside the North Kohala boundary.  The middle third of the Ranch has urban classification, with approvals for 1490 lots and condos - beyond an earlier 478 lots - plus a golf course and substantial shopping center.  The upper and lower two-thirds of the Ranch have agricultural zoning, as do most of the surrounding subdivisions.  The Kohala Ranch Water Company, owned by the Kohala Ranch developer, supplies water to all these subdivisions.

The hydrology report done for the original developer after testing of Well 4 estimated the water supply under Kohala Ranch as "up to" 3.7 mgd (million gallons per day)*. Yet an application by the current developer in 2000 gave the projected water demand as 3.82 to 4.68 mgd.

This paper will show that the actual shortfall may be much greater than the above figures suggest, because it appears both that the groundwater estimate is inflated and that the projected demand is understated.  More wells will be needed in order to maximize retrieval of the limited groundwater available, yet the developer is not being required to drill them or to find other sources.

There could be a shortfall without any further subdivision, yet the Project IV urban area will likely increase demand by another 1½ to 2½ mgd of fresh water, plus roughly one mgd of brackish water for irrigating the golf course.  According to its PUC tariff, the water company may not provide service to new subdivisions unless it can do so without detriment to the subdivisions it already serves.  It is incumbent upon the developer to pay for adequate system capacity, and those costs are to be reimbursed through land sales, not water sales. 

But if the developer is not held accountable in a timely way, the burden is likely to fall upon the consumers, with possible price increases, fines, rationing, improvement district assessments...
conceivably even water cutoffs.  All of these, in turn, could affect property values.  Because of this, it is crucial that public agencies step in to ensure that subdivision not continue to take place within the water service area until these issues have been satisfactorily resolved.

Some of the evidence that will be presented includes the fact that the developer's water consultant assumed a large area of impounded water that probably does not exist as shown; that his cal-culations were based on yearly averages, which generally yield figures that overstate the resource; that he used a groundwater recharge rate that more recent studies suggest is too high; and that he assumed a greater percentage of the groundwater is retrievable than state standards support.

The developer has understated eventual demand by using average consumption (thus ignoring fluctuations in demand), by not allowing for system losses (which could be as high as 5-10%), and by making some estimates that seem unrealistically low.  For example the demand estimate referred to in paragraph 2 above is based on single-family homes in Project IV averaging 750 gallons per day; yet the design guidelines for the first increment there budget 2000 gallons a day per home, a figure that is still only two-third of the historical average for other Kohala Ranch lots.

* It actually said 3.8 mgd, but this was due to a math or print error.