Those of us who own our homes know that it pays to maintain them. We know that if we defer needed repairs for too long, we will only have to pay even more in the future to fix them. Leaky roofs will cause other damage. If you don't respond to termites, you will pay dearly.
The same logic applies to our public water system. We--the public--own this system. We depend on it and we are responsible for it. We can either maintain and improve it now, or we will pay for our neglect in higher rates and a poorly operating system in the future. That is why the Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) supports Mayor Alan Arakawa's proposal to raise the rates.
Our community has enjoyed unsustainably low water rates for a long time. We have gotten used to cheap water. The problem is the low rates do not pay for the maintenance of our existing water system or its future expansion.
Government Affairs Director • Realtors Association of Maui
Our association truly appreciates the clarity Water Director David Taylor has brought to this discussion. After analyzing his presentations, the RAM Board of Directors decided to support Taylor's mid-range option: an annual rate increase of 6 to 8 percent over five years, and doubling the Water System Development Fee (a.k.a. the water meter fee).
The beauty of this proposal is that it divides the burden for these improvements, sharing them equally between the existing community and future residents. Having a well-functioning water system is equally important to both the existing community and future residents, so everyone has to pay their share.
What happens if we do not make this investment? Just look at Honolulu. The city has been suffering through an epidemic of daily, major water line breaks for years now because it failed to make the necessary investments upfront. If we don't start making serious investments now, we, too, will pay later with a poorly functioning system, water shortages, an epidemic of broken pipes, and eventually, even higher water rates.
Maui County had a similar experience with wastewater. Decades ago, our county underinvested in sewer lines and processing facilities, and paid for that lack of foresight with lack of capacity when it was needed--and a stream of sewage running down Honoapi'ilani Highway in front of the Ka'anapali Resort. Since then, our county has been wise enough to keep ahead of wastewater maintenance and capacity needs by making significant investments in the system every year.
We must do exactly the same thing for our water system. We must do that while also protecting those who are living on tight budgets and without driving our farmers out of business. But we must do it, or we will all pay dearly in the future for that failure to act now.