“Every drop of water saved helps us avoid entering mandatory conservation measures over the summer,” said Ernie Lau, chief engineer for the Honolulu Water Supply Board.
Lau called on Oʻahu’s tourism and business officials to do their part to save water during a webinar hosted by the Hawaii Tourism Authority last month. He told attendees that drier conditions, the continued impact of the Red Hill fuel leak and high usage could pose water supply problems for the cities of Honolulu and Waikīkī this summer.
The Water Supply Board stopped pumping water from the Hālawa well last year as a precaution, due to the presence of jet fuel in nearby Navy water wells. The Hālawa Well supplies the majority of water to urban areas of Honolulu and East Oʻahu – including Waikīkī.
In March, the Water Supply Board asked residents to voluntarily reduce their water use by 10% to avoid short or long service interruptions.
Outside of Oʻahu, the Maui Department of Water issued a Phase 1 Drought Declaration for parts of West Maui and the backcountry. The Maui Water Department has urged residents and visitors to conserve water, while implementing some restrictions.
And on the island of Hawaii, a prolonged drought has increased the possibility of wildfires in the western part of the island.
As residents are urged to conserve water and the state anticipates a busy summer season, what is being done to conserve water within the visitor industry?
For a hotel chain, water conservation is one of many environmental efforts it is tackling.
“We choose drought-resistant hotels and we have wash-on-demand policies at our hotels,” said Monica Salter, vice president of communications and sustainability at Outrigger Hospitality Group. “One of the biggest culprits for water use is laundry.”
Salter told HPR that the hotel chain has made efforts to conserve water, reduce waste and be energy efficient in its operations over the past decade. She says the group has conducted audits of their properties to measure their electricity usage and environmental impacts.
Regarding water use, she says, the group has partnered with the Honolulu Board of Water Supply to conduct water audits of its Waikīkī properties. Salter says the audit found the hotel was already doing a good job of efficiency and water use.
“For example, when we renovated the Waikīkī Beachcomber and Outrigger Reef, we replaced the shower heads with low-flow versions. And that’s something we will continue to do at all of our properties and planned renovations.”
Outrigger is one of several hotels in the state to participate in a public-private collective promoting the adoption of green business practices.
The Hawaiʻi Green Business program was founded over 20 years ago. The program is a partnership with water agencies within the state, the state Department of Lands and Natural Resources, the state Office of Energy and tourism agencies, associations and hotels.
“The goals are not just to improve these practices, but to recognize companies for what they do,” said Gail Suzuki-Jones, program coordinator.
When it comes to water conservation, Suzuki-Jones says hotels can do a lot. Whether it’s changing aerators, faucets and showerheads, limiting water consumption in rooms or using endemic drought-resistant plants.
“Watch the irrigation and check for leaks,” she said. “Apparently one of the biggest culprits is leaks and irrigation.”
Suzuki-Jones notes that some hotels on the island of Hawaii use rainwater harvesting systems and recycled water for irrigation.
The Hawaiʻi Green Business program has four categories it focuses on: Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants and Offices, and Events and Venues. Recently, the program recognized 14 hotels, businesses, venues and events for implementing green business practices.
Of these, nine were hotels, five of which are Outrigger properties. Other award-winning hotels include the Prince Waikīkī, Volcano House in Pāhoa and the Westin Nanea Ocean Villas in Kaʻanapali.
The program not only focuses on water conservation, but also aims to improve electrical efficiency and reduce waste.
At Outrigger, Salter says the group has also put measures in place to deal with these impacts, particularly around waste reduction. She says the group recycles cardboard and glass products, which they will continue to practice and develop.
“Our next step in the plan is to create a green procurement plan to ensure that what we actually bring into the property is recyclable material – or ideally the elimination of single-use plastic,” she said. declared.
Salter says the group has installed water filling stations at several of its properties. These stations can be used by guests, who receive a metal water bottle and reusable bag upon check-in.
Among other initiatives, the Outrigger also provides its guests with reef-safe sunscreens.
Salter tells HPR that the measures taken at his Waikīkī properties are also in place at his hotels across the state, Fiji, Mauritius and the Maldives.
Outrigger Hospitality Group is a Hawaii Public Radio underwriter.