A Possible Fix For The Capitol’s Stinking Pools - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Caroline Kunitake

Caroline Kunitake is a member of the American Association of University Women’s Honolulu branch.


Meant to evoke the shimmering Pacific, the Hawaii State Capitol pools smell more like a fish tank than the sea. But even less appealing than their appearance or smell is the estimated cost to repair them: $30 million.

Even if Hawaii’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic was currently well underway, such an expense would be an unwise use of our tax dollars. Let’s not throw money down the drain.

There’s a better way: transform the brown water feature into a blue-green, low-maintenance dry landscape. Why not drain the pools, paint the bottom and cover the surface with blue and green crushed rocks, glass and pebbles?

The color blue would replace the physical water to preserve the idea and symbolism of the Pacific Ocean. Draining the pools would eliminate leaks into the basement offices, stinky algae, and the fishes. No more endless cleanups or pumping as much as 18,000 gallons of brackish water a day into a manhole leading to the sewer drain.

The Capitol pools have been plagued with costly maintenance problems for decades. How about we switch to a dry landscape that can evoke the ocean?

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What a waste of time, energy and our precious clean water. The $30 million estimated to repair the Capitol pools could be reallocated to fund other critical services, including education, affordable housing, the homeless, debt service, and Medicaid payments.

I first saw this blue and green dry landscape at the Nevada State Museum and Spring Preserves in Las Vegas, Hawaii’s Ninth island. The landscape is simple, dramatic and perfect for conserving water in the middle of the desert.

Outdoor landscaping at Spring Preserves in Las Vegas, December, 2016. The material is made up of blue and green glass, rocks and pebbles.

Caroline Kunitake

The color of this dry landscape conveys the color of the deep blue ocean. These crushed rocks, glass and pebbles would easily preserve the historic value of the Capitol since the pools would not need to be structurally changed or repaired to hold water.

Installation, maintenance and removal of the dry landscape would be relatively easy and simple compared to maintaining a vast, shallow, stagnant pool constantly covered with green algae. The pool makeover could withstand future natural disasters, drought and severe budget shortfalls.

A deep blue landscape boldly framing the outside of the Capitol would complement the blue mosaic in the middle of the first floor. During daylight hours, visitors and staff would enjoy a stunning visual experience entering and exiting the grounds. The “ocean” of blue color surrounding the Capitol would reinforce Hawaii’s remote location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Aerial views of the Capitol would no longer feature the poor maintenance of the pools. Instead the unique architectural features of the building would be revived with style and elegance. After a successful makeover, the Capitol will have a “fresh look” for photos taken at all angles.

Doing more with less is pleasantly practical.

Rep. Sylvia Luke has emailed the Capitol pool makeover suggestion to the governor’s office. Gov. David Ige’s administration controls the public works projects and overall schedule. She shared that various legislators have also expressed concerns about the timing of the pool project and the cost associated with the repairs.

I hope that the governor’s office will consider my suggestion as a practical alternative solution to a $30 million repair project (that would probably need to be repeated again and again, becoming an endless black hole of repairs and maintenance).

My intent is to propose a long-term solution which creates greater beauty while requiring less time, maintenance, resources and money. Doing more with less is pleasantly practical since it draws upon the ideas of minimalism, stripping away all that is unnecessary and focusing on what is essential.

I believe that the public and Department of Accounting and General Services staff have other bright makeover ideas with limitless potential to creatively address the state budget shortfall. We need everyone’s inspiration, expertise and talents to be focused on the collaborative budget saving opportunities revealed by the crisis.

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About the Author

Caroline Kunitake

Caroline Kunitake is a member of the American Association of University Women’s Honolulu branch.


Latest Comments (0)

Drain the pools and let the homeless camp there until our elected "leaders" fix that problem. They they can walk past them like I do everyday on my way to work.

PCDoctorUSA · 6 days ago

This is a constructive idea.  You could take this idea even further and create (over time), a xeriscape garden(s), art sculpture(s), etc.  This could be an evolving forum for artistic expression for the benefit of the community.   The Foundation for Culture and the Arts could seek proposals for consideration/funding.  Lots of ways to incorporate good ideas and community support/benefit.   

DonaH · 6 days ago

Wow. This problem is almost as big as the Natatorium. I jest - am I the only one who thinks we are wasting far too much time and money on a manini issue of no import? 

CatManapua · 6 days ago

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