Honolulu could save millions of dollars by reducing potable water usage in its parks, according to an audit of the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation.

The audit, conducted by the Office of the City Auditor, found that instead of the department meeting its goal to reduce potable water usage by 5 percent annually, usage increased by 13 percent from fiscal year 2015 to 2017.

Instead of saving $833,907, water costs increased by more than $2 million during this time, the audit found.

A leaking hose attached to a water fountain at Waimanalo Beach Park. An audit of the Department of Parks and Recreation found that water costs increased by more than $2 million in two years. Courtney Teague/Civil Beat

The department could reduce potable water use by 5 percent annually if it installed water-conserving fixtures or irrigation equipment, the audit said. It also recommended the city use nonpotable water when possible.

Only seven of 440 city parks have a nonpotable or recycled water source, the audit said.

Although the department is currently working with the Board of Water Supply on the issue, there are no formal plans to install more nonpotable fixtures at city parks, the audit said.

The audit also found that the department has filled only 76 percent of its recent job vacancies, although some are considered critical positions. In fiscal years 2015 and 2016, the department used personal services contracts to fill 64 temporary, unplanned positions, which the audit found cost $1.5 million more than making traditional hires. 

This alternative method of recruitment can lead to high turnover, according to the audit, which offered the example of the department’s vacant groundskeeper positions.

In fiscal years 2015 and 2016, 56 of the 64 temporary positions were for groundskeeper positions, which cost the city about $1.3 million more than it would cost to hire for permanent positions.

These vacancies affected the department’s ability to properly maintain parks, the audit said, adding, “The department missed an opportunity to contribute more toward meeting the mayor’s priorities to beautify and re-establish pride in city parks.”

The department could also improve its performance by developing performance metrics that can be measured and monitored, linking those metrics to its mission, the audit said.

The department’s written response to the audit said it agreed with the report’s recommendations.

Read the full audit, with comments from the Department of Parks and Recreation, below:

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