Testing the Waters: KaiAloha Supply partners with Hui O Ka Wai Ola to support their efforts towards cleaner coastlines


“Everything just ends up in the ocean. This is our ocean water, but it looks like chocolate milk. It’s so bad,” senior team lead at Hui O Ka Wai Ola, Liz Yannell said.


KaiAloha Supply recently donated to Hui O Ka Wai Ola (HOKWO) to support their mission of raising awareness and driving transformative change to the ocean waters in Maui. As a coalition made up of partners from Maui Nui Marine Resource Council (MNMRC), West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative, and the Nature Conservancy, Hui O Ka Wai Ola is dedicated to collecting and analyzing water quality data. Their goal is to make it available for use in ongoing and new initiatives aimed at promoting a cleaner ocean environment. Some of the organizations they work with are National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), University of Hawai’i at Manoa, and The Hawai’i State Department of Health.


“We’re so lucky to have people that fund us like KaiAloha Supply, you are what gives us the funds to keep the work going.”


KaiAloha Supply has been instrumental in helping HOKWO make significant progress in their main projects: water sample testing across 31 sites on the leeward coast of Maui and the Brown Water Waste Project. Liz testified at the Senate floor last month and emphasized the importance of taking action to address this critical issue. “This is real,” she said, “we see the brown water and we see that it lasts for months. Once the sediment is in the ocean, the current may carry it away, but that takes time. And even if it does [carry it away], it's still forever in the ocean. It's not like it can be extracted.”


Friends and volunteers who own drones were able to capture images of the most recent brown water events like the ones that occurred in December 2022 and again in January. The photo above is post-storm in Kihei, Maui on December 18, 2022 which shows different layers of brown very close to shore. (Hui O Ka Wai Ola / Kelly James)


The goal of the Brown Water Waste Project is to collect data on turbidity and water clarity, as well as the amount of sediment and other pollutants that are present in the water. The team has discovered that when the sediment lingers, it blocks sunlight from the coral reefs, disrupting the photosynthesis process and can lead to damage or even death of the reef. 


Post-subsequent storm and flooding in Kihei, Maui in January 2023. The water is visibly brown and there is no sight of blue hues. (West Maui Ride to Reef Initiative / Tova Callendar)


“Your donation really helps us to continue to do the work that we do so that we can have this data and hopefully see big changes, not just the small few changes we’ve seen, but hopefully over time, there’s more of a shift in a positive direction,” Liz said. “Thanks to your support, we've witnessed positive changes in places like Kapalua Bay on the westside. Coastal improvements have the potential to significantly impact our data, proving that our efforts can make a difference.”


Since 2016, HOKWO has tested 31 sites on the leeward coast of Maui. Every 3 weeks, they collect water samples with a similar purpose as the Brown Water Waste Project: to improve water quality and educate people to raise awareness about the issue with hope to encourage action. HOKWO is fueled by citizen scientists, which they currently have about 30 volunteers that collect almost all of the data and ensure accuracy. 


The HOKWO team wearing KaiAloha hats during their sampling on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. That morning, the volunteers traveled to 6 areas to collect data: Napili Bay, Pohaku, Ka’anapali, Kahekili II, Canoe Beach, and Wahikuli on Maui. (KaiAloha Supply / Sophia Ramos)


The collaboration between KaiAloha Supply and Hui O Ka Wai Ola highlights the importance of community-driven efforts to safeguard our natural resources. Both entities recognize the vital role that data plays in supporting positive change. They hope to drive progress towards cleaner ocean waters and inspire others to join the cause. 


For more information, visit https://www.huiokawaiola.com

If you see a brown water event or a nasty stream flow, send a photo to brownwaterwatch@gmail.com

To get in contact with Liz for volunteer opportunities, email liz@mauireefs.org.