No to the Horizontal Well

SUBHEAD: It's like opening a vein in Kauai and letting her bleed out. Written testimony against the Wai'ale'ale Horizontal Drilling Project goes on until 4/20.

[Note: The testimony in this article has been updated. There is a correction to the calculation of pressure of water in testimony below. The PSI at outlet of 24" pipe did not include reduction of pressure due to friction in the rock, which reduces the likely pressure from by almost an order of magnitude. Instead of a hundred atmospheres it is more likely to be dozens. this is in the range of the pressure anticipated by the proponents of the well. The testimonies below have been modified with that recalculation. Apologies are due for our mistake.]

By Juan Wilson & Arius Hopman on 11 April 2013 for Island Breath -

Image above:  Mills using the Niagara River to power, cool and wash their industrial processes. It seemed the right thing to do at the time. From (

Comments will be received during the meeting or may be made at ( or ( the link to the Kauai Water System Energy Conservation Project.

Deadline for comments is: April 20, 2013.

Testimony Opposing Wai'ale'ale Horizontal Drilling:

Testimony by Juan Wilson

The proposal to drill horizontally into the core of Kauai with a two foot diameter pipe to reach our central fresh water aquifer with a head of thousands of feet should be rejected as unnecessary and fraught with uncounted risks.

I concur with the testimony of Arius Hopman (see below) on the geology of Kauai and the estimate that several dozen atmospheres of pressure may be generated by the horizontal well project, depending on specific site used and the unknown rock formations the drilling will pass through.

My question, as an architect with four years study of structural engineering, is what safety systems are currently capable and included in the design of this project to handle a catastrophic failure of the equipment handing the force of the hydraulic pressures that may be encountered.

QUESTION: Specifically, how can the engineer's of this project demonstrate the safety of this project, particularly with a major tsunami or landslide driven earthquake knocking down the KIUC power grid, Hawaiian Telcom communication system, and taking out long sections of the Kuhio Highway in Wailua-Kapaa?

The engineer's guarantees are worth little on a project that has great complexities, with monumental forces in unserviceable areas.

In 2010 the Deepwater Horizon disaster at British Petroleum's Macondo well leaked millions of gallons of crude oil that has destroyed the aquatic environment of the Gulf of Mexico.  The spectacle of technological failure to cap that well for a protracted time was something
that should be remembered. The full force of the United States government and the richest corporations in the world were helpless to solve the problem at hand.

In 2011 the tsunami that destroyed that cooling pumps and flooded the backup generators at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant has resulted in a continuing discharge great quantities of highly radioactive water into the pacific Ocean to this day. In Hawaii, children under three years old have experienced a 16% increase of hypothyroidism since. The Tepco engineers have no solution in hand more than two years after the disaster. They just keep hosing down the rubble and letting the results enter our ocean.

As an architect and planner with more than thirty years experience, I can guarantee that the resulting energy and 8 million gallons a day is not a plan to simply lower the cost to the public of their electric and water bills. Quite the contrary, this is a plan to increase the population of the island of Kauai by about 50% (the number of people in the Wailua-Kapaa area that now use about that much water from existing wells).

This horizontal well project is the foundation of a real estate play. More suburbia, more shopping plazas, more car traffic, more Oahu. Kauai is not underdeveloped. If, as I see likely, we will soon have to be much more self-reliant and self-sufficient. As it is, Kauai cannot feed itself or provide the power it needs to even light our homes at night. But given its resources Kauai could get there. That certainly is not true of Oahu or even Maui to unsupportably large populations.  

We cannot add tens of thousands of people on this island and reach sustainability in Hawaii. As a planner I ask the proponents of this well project to demonstrate that real-estate speculation is not the driving motivation and goal of this water/energy plan.

QUESTION: Specifically, what exactly is in this plan that guarantees that the additional water and energy will be used only to reduce cost of utilities to the residents of Kauai, and not to allow speculators to develop large tracts of suburban sprawl that will increase traffic in the bottle-necked Kappa-Lihue corridor?

The developers of this program have not demonstrated that their horizontal well project will not reduce the volume of water in the aquifer they intend to drill into. They cannot without drilling.

One thing is fairly certain. There is diminished rainfall to this aquifer in recent decades. Rain on Waialeale Mountain is down about 30%. That means less recharging of the aquifer over many years already. The future is looking worse. As the planet experiences global warming the cloud elevations will rise and much water will never be caught at the elevation of Waialelale. Moreover, the north-east Trade Winds have diminished and are expected by climate scientists to be reduced in the weather we will face in the future.

I ask the planners of this project to demonstrate that taking 8 million gallons a day from this aquifer will be made up by the rain expected to fall on Kauai in the future.

QUESTION: Specifically, what climate scientists have you consulted and what reports did they generate to provide support for a continued future replacement of water taken from our aquifer.

The idea that Kauai has a great need for a hydro-electric generator of this kind and scale has not been demonstrated. There are better understood technologies available without the associated risks.

Throughout Hawaii there is great progress being made in providing alternative energy using photovoltaic panels.

Hawaii's generous tax break for PV installations along with the Federal program of tax incentives makes even modest home PV stand alone systems economical. Recently, PV hardware prices have dramatically dropped making PV systems with battery storage affordable for many. 

KIUC has finally adopted the course of using large PV systems with battery backup for stability and continuity of generating capacity. After completing the large installation adjacent to its main generating station at Port Allen, KIUC is moving quickly to adopt solar.

KIUC has identified a hydro-electric system with some potential and with far less unknown and unanticipated potential problems.

That technique is to use some solar PV energy to raise water from a lower reservoir to higher reservoir during daylight hours and then, at night, letting that water run downhill to a generator at the lower reservoir. This is water that would be somewhat "recycled".

There are some existing potential sites for such a system left over from the sugarcane industry, but even this reservoir based hydro-electric system has some problems. There are some non-GMO agricultural uses that would like to replace sugarcane and utilize those sites.

Certainly, food production is a more critical need in Hawaii than energy production. Hawaiians lived rich lives on these islands for a thousand years without electricity.

A water plan for Kauai should look to reforesting barren parts of the land that were stripped and used for sugarcane. The ditches of diverted water should be used to this end. The greening of the hillside helps hold the cloud cover and would recharge their aquifers. It would slow down the rush of fresh water off the island.

QUESTION: Specifically, I ask the planners of this project to detail how their horizontal well will recharge our aquifers and slow the movement of fresh water off Kauai?

Testimony by Arius Hopman

My name is Arius Hopman, I hold a degree in geology with honors, and have been a business owner on Kauai for 16 years and resident of Hawaii for 25 years. As a professional geologist, I find the proposed horizontal drilling with a 24 inch diameter pipe disturbing and unscientific. The consequences of such a project have not been properly thought out and are skewed towards profiteering. All Kauai residents need to become informed and ask all the serious questions before this project can proceed.

 the geology of the island is complex and the interior of Waiale'ale is not well understood. The permeable volcanic rocks extruded from the floor of the Pacific is magnesium and iron rich and flows into the dome-like volcanoes typical of these islands. Before the “hot spot” of liquid magma moves on, it pushes up with great pressure against the extruded dome, causing it to crack more or less vertically. The high pressure magma is then intruded from below into the cracks where it cools and solidifies into dykes. Because of the pressure, the rock in these dykes is much denser than the surrounding basalt, causing near water-impenetrable walls. Dykes can be seen in the Waimea Canyon criss-crossing the eroding walls. They extend three-dimensionally into the depth of the mountain.

Imagine hundreds of these near-impenetrable walls intersecting each other at all angles. With time, the basalt weathers and the dykes crack. Rainwater seeps in from above, filling both perched water tables and aquafers. Hundreds of springs develop where these water tables and aquifers come to the surface of the eroding island. Not much is known about the intricate hydrology in the heart of this island.

But not only are springs affected by the trapped water and the water-column pressure above the springs. There are "gaining" streams, which increase their flow from aquafers (ie.springs in-or near the streams), and "loosing" streams that seep water into the aquafers. Complexity is added by the many ditches, tunnels and wells drilled over time.

Before we unbalance this complex hydrology, we need to understand much more carefully what the consequences are!

Add to this picture additional human elements, specifically special interests (ie. greed), that want to exploit public assets for private gain. Let us be clear from the start: all natural water on the island is a public resource. Only the public has the right to determine if- and how it is used. Neither the Department of Water, nor the State have any ownership of the public water. We, the citizens have elected and appointed our public servants to steward and malama all natural resources.

Any action taken must also consider the impact on our precious and fragile environment, especially now, during these decades of extended drought resulting from human-induced global warming: Rain catchment records show that the centuary-average annual rain at Waiale'ale was 423". But from 1995 to 2011 the average rainfall had dropped to 353"/year.

A University of Hawaii study concludes that Trade winds, that bring most of the rain, have decreased by 30%-40% over the last 40 years. This should be a wake-up call.


---This decrease in annual railfall must be taken into account in our environmental assessment: To put it simply, our water supply is decreasing at an accelerated rate. Is this a wise time to tap and drain down our primary water supply?

--- Has the annual and/or dry season flow of all major streams and springs been measured and documented? Are these documents available to the public? If not, how can we insure that we are not destroying the natural flow of springs and streams by drilling and extracting?
---Does the effect of the extended drought show up in any of the recorded stream and spring flow rates?

---What contingency plan does the DOW have if springs and streams are negatively affected, either by drought or drilling?

---Do we plan to once again sacrifice the environment... especially during this drying trend!?

---Have we reached our "peak of water" as in many other parts of the world? If so, what is the most responsible decision, for the many future generations to come?

---What would the sustainable consumption of water look like on Kauai, and has sustainable consumption been taken into account?

---What are the economic pressures affecting this rush to drill?

---The average water consumption of the Kapa'a/Lihue population is 6 million gallons/day. A sudden influx of 8mm GPD would either waste water needlessly or cause a rapid flurry of development. Is development the hidden agenda behind the innocent-sounding proposal for hydro-electric generation?

---What additional environmental impacts would such a surge of development have on all aspects of Kauai life?

---Isn't water the primary tangible public asset in this project, and the hydraulic energy a mere byproduct?? Yet the spin is that we need "clean" hydraulic energy. Isn't that public deception?

---Does anybody know the hydrological water head (column of water), and therefore the water pressure at the proposed drilling source under the mountain? ---...And if not, how can one determine the volume of water exiting the pipe daily?

---On Big Island in one drilling, the water column was 2000 feet. A column of water 24 feet high is one atmosphere of pressure. How many atmospheres have been calculated here and what factors/assumptions that went into the calculation? Can we risk drilling before knowing?

--- A 24" diameter pipe at, say a column of water 2000 foot high... Isn't the estimated additional 8mmGPD (eight million gallons/day) outflow a considerable underestimate?

---It is estimated that the flow of water from the Makaleha Spring is approximately 1,000,000 gallons per day. Yet the cumulative opening at this spring is much less than 6 inches diameter, and more like 3 or 4 inches. Isn't a 24 inch pipe vastly oversized for the water needs of Kauai?

---How can the Kauai Department of Water, which is NOT a public service, but rather a semi-private hybrid, possibly make unbiased decisions in the service of Kauai residents? Please explain and pledge in detail. If this project is pono, this should be an easy task.

---IF NOT 100% PONO,shouldn't the DOW recuse itself from this project, or become a fully public service-oriented (not semi-private) County Department?

---Were studies of ground water samples that found atrozene and other chemicals in the samples initiated before or after the horizontal well project was conceived? Wouldn't such chemicals be the perfect excuse to "drill, baby, drill"?... Rather than take responsibility and clean up the mess the plantations and GMO Co's have left us?

---Have any developers/real estate agents been involved in any way in the planning of this project?

---What is the connection between this proposed project and the Public Land Development Corp.?

---Isn't this the perfect "back door" to PLDC-style development?

--- Who ultimately profits from this project? Detailed response requested.

---Is there transparency in all aspects of this project? Please answer.

---The cost of new water meters has skyrocketed in recent years. If there is a sudden rush of development, what happens to that cost and who profits?

---Are there any documents available to the public that outline all details, and future profits from this project?

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Scoping Meeting on Horizontal Well  4/2/13



Anonymous said...

It's obvious that your real intent here is t limit population growth on Kauai. If that is so and if you were really true to your intent and mission, you'd do the right thing by moving away. But no. You people are fakes and are simply pulling up the draw bridge. You've come here without permission. You didn't need you and don't need you know. Please be forthright and go back to where you came from. We don't like you and don't want you here.

Juan Wilson said...

Aloha Anonymous,

Brave of you to identify yourself.

You don't have to like me or need me. But we both live on a little island far away from the rest of the world.

Getting along with theeach other is important. We should try and see the best in one another.

It sounds like you want to defend the integrity of this place.

So do I.

IB Publisher

Anonymous said...


It has been through human greed that the great Ogallala aquifer that sits below the Midwest states is being drained to irrigate what was once a vast grassland supporting vast herds of bison. They in turn supported a culture that lived in harmony with nature.

Wells were sunk with no thought of the future. The water they were tapping was runoff from the melting glaciers of the last Ice Age.

Initially farmers settling in the High Plains relied on windmills to help them lift groundwater from beneath the surface. But in the 1940s and 1950s, with the introduction of powerful pumps, large sprinkler systems and abundant supplies of natural gas and electricity, irrigation in the High Plains took off. Since 1949, the area under irrigation has risen more than five-fold. Groundwater withdrawals rose in tandem, resulting in a large-scale and ongoing depletion of this critical water reserve.

In less than a hundred years farmers have withdrawn what took nature tens of thousands of years to store.

The planet's weather patterns are changing. Any fool can see that. And there's no one smart enough to accurately predict what the future holds for our island. The fresh water held by Kauai is the islands future. Are we to let some idiots squander our children's heritage for some short term self serving goals?

Bring down the price of electricity? What a laugh. Solar panel construction is now being discouraged because the co-op needs to run its power plant to make money to pay back loans. So they have to keep the price of electricity high. It's never going to come down as long as they keep borrowing money.

There may come a time when that water is needed for people to drink. And these fools want to punch a hole and drain it? Once they punch that hole their need will become ever greater and it's just going to get bigger and keep on going...until the water is gone.

Our rain fall depends on the moisture in the air. How much atmospheric moisture there will be in the future trade wind patterns is unknown.

I say let's treat that water like it's money in the bank. There are some short sighted people giving little or no thought to the future who won't be satisfied until they've sucked this island dry.

Let's get rid of these idiots before they do any more damage.

We have a tourist industry because this island is beautiful. We have waterfalls and rivers. Who's going to come here if the island has been sucked dry.

Kauai is alive and someone wants to drill a huge hole into its heart and drain out its life's blood. These people belong in a home for the retarded.


Bill Walker
Eleele, Hawaii

Anonymous said...

i'm so sick and tired of the age old local versus haole argument coming from pro development proponents..."go back to where you came from" is all you can say? we're trying to preserve the integrity of this island and prevent it from turning into a giant ugly metropolis. what's wrong with that? perhaps YOU should go back to where you came from.

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