It has been almost a decade since East Maui taro farmers and environmentalists petitioned the state to return water rights that were given to large agricultural operations a century ago. The water is being used by Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company, the last remaining sugar producer in the state and a remnant of a bygone era. The company says that diverting its water supply will put it out of business and leave 800 employees out of work.

Some of you have written in our discussion areas that water rights and access to water are intrinsically linked to land use. Without water, no crops can grow, so without water, land loses much of its value. An Associated Press story reprinted far and wide Monday highlighted the conflicting points of view and provided good background information.

The debate over the Na Wai Eha streams on Maui, with roots so deep that a film on the dispute titled “Release Our Water” is scheduled to be shown during the Oiwi Film Festival this weekend, seems to be drawing to a head.

The State Commission on Water Resource Management‘s late March public hearing on the case set the stage for possible movement this month. I noted in May 10’s Land Links that the U.S. Geological Survey has completed its study of the area and will be presenting the results on May 18. The following day, the commission will hold its May meeting. No agenda had been published on its website as of Monday afternoon.

We all know how valuable water is, so where do you stand in the East Maui dispute?

Join the conversation on water rights and other land use issues.

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