DLNR has tried to fix the waterline at least 40 times over the past four years at Hapuna Beach.

One of the Big Island’s most sought-after beaches has been parched for months, prompting locals and tourists alike to wonder when fresh water will be running again.

Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area on the Big Island’s west side is a wide, white-sand beach popular with swimmers, bodysurfers, volleyball players, picnickers and others seeking outdoor recreation opportunities. The beach has lifeguards and the landscaped park offers tables and pavilions.

But since Oct. 8, the 13-year-old fresh water system feeding showers, restrooms and drinking fountains has been shut down — an on-again, off-again problem.

Between August 2018 and Oct. 28, 2022, the Department of Land and Natural Resources has attempted to fix a broken waterline 41 times at Hapuna Beach, according to DLNR spokesman Ryan Aguilar.

At this point DLNR says the water system is beyond repair and needs replacing.

“This has been a persistent problem,” said Rep. David Tarnas, who represented the area prior to reapportionment. “People are frustrated.”

Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area has been without fresh water since October. (Courtesy: Lynn Beittel/2022)

Rep. Nicole Lowen, who now represents District 7 which includes Kailua, North Kona and South Kohala, shares the sentiment.

“I will keep encouraging DLNR to be as expeditious as possible in completing these urgently needed repairs at one of the Big Island’s most heavily used state parks,” Lowen said by email.

Despite the lack of running water, the fees at Hapuna Beach remain the same.

Non-residents pay $10 to park non-commercial vehicles there, plus $5 in entrance fees per person. Commercial vehicles cost more, anywhere from $25 to $90 depending on passenger capacity.

Showers have been closed off since there’s no fresh water at Hapuna Beach. (Courtesy: Lynn Beittel/2022)

Although the beach is free for Hawaii residents, many are growing tired of the state’s delayed response in fixing the problem.

“I’ve had a significant number of emails and phone calls and people stopping me in the store when I’m back home on weekends, saying, ‘Please fix the water situation at Hapuna. It’s ridiculous,’ and these are from residents who use the park daily to go swimming,” Tarnas said.

State officials don’t expect construction of a new water system to be completed until the fourth quarter of 2024.

“It’s outrageous. Insane. It’s unacceptable. Why should it take two years? It’s not like rocket science building a water line,” said Lynn Beittel, a Waimea resident who plays volleyball on Saturdays at Hapuna and swims there regularly.

It’s extra irritating to look to the north end of Hapuna Beach and see a hotel with lush lawns, showers, restaurants and bathrooms that all work, she said, noting that Hapuna Beach instead has a few port-a-potties baking in the sun that no one wants to use.

Big Island resident Riley Smith, a member of the Board of Land and Natural Resources, said he’s brought the matter up with DLNR’s Division of State Parks because, like Tarnas, he’s heard from residents who are fed up.

Rep. David Tarnas secured funding to replace the water line at Hapuna Beach. (Courtesy: David Tarnas)

The water line problem has not come before the board as an agenda item but Smith said he’s heard enough concerns from members of the public that he felt it was his responsibility to contact DLNR.

State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell was unavailable for an interview this week.

David Amado, the district superintendent for state parks, said efforts are being made to run a temporary water line to the showers and bathrooms while an engineering study is conducted in the first quarter of this year.

After the engineering investigation is done, a request for proposals will be prepared. Bids for construction will go out in the third quarter of this year with construction scheduled to start in the first part of 2024.

Tarnas said he worked with his Senate counterpart, Sen. Lorraine Inouye, to secure legislative approval for $2.2 million in funding to replace the potable and irrigation water system at Hapuna Beach. Former Gov. David Ige released the money last April.

Portable toilets were brought to Hapuna Beach since there’s no fresh water. (Courtesy: Lynn Beittel/2022)

Tarnas said he’s been “courteously persistent” in staying on top of DLNR to make sure the project stays on track. He was surprised to learn it’s going to take two years to fix the problem which officials told him has to do with the slow-moving government procurement process.

“It’s a long way out,” he said.

If the temporary water line doesn’t go forward for whatever reason, DLNR will consider asking the Board of Land and Natural to amend the parking and entrance fees for out-of-state visitors, Aguilar said.

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