Of all the potential issues Honolulu residents are facing, their top concern is protecting the island’s drinking water, according to National Community Survey results released this month.

Respondents were asked to rate the importance of particular city issues – including planting trees and improving parks – and 97% of them said: “Protecting drinking water aquifers from pollution by establishing programs, rules and directives to regulate contaminating activities.”

Demonstrators hold signs calling for the closing of the Red Hill fuel tanks at the Capitol Rotunda.
There has been heightened public attention on water after the Navy contaminated the island’s aquifer with fuel. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

The near-unanimous response came from 375 residents who were surveyed from Nov. 29, 2021 through Jan. 31, 2022, the first months of a water contamination crisis tied to the Navy’s Red Hill fuel facility.

The survey is a collaboration between the National Research Center at Polco and the International City/County Management Association. It compares results among 600 communities across the country.

In addition to providing clean water, residents indicated that it is essential or very important that the city improve ethics, accountability, and transparency in government; provide safe and sanitary streets and walkways; and adapt the island for climate change.

Overall, survey respondents were dissatisfied with Honolulu’s liveability. Less than half of survey takers consider the city’s economic health, infrastructure and overall design to be excellent or good, which is lower or much lower than other locales. And only 46% of residents reported an excellent or good feeling about safety on the island, which was a much lower result than in other cities, according to the survey.

Rated on its governance, Honolulu is doing quite poorly, according to the survey takers. The city ranked lower or much lower than other jurisdictions.

Only 24% of respondents rated the city positively when it comes to “the value of services for the taxes paid to Honolulu.” On the overall direction the city is taking, only 21% gave a positive reaction. Regarding overall confidence in Honolulu’s government, only 22% said it was excellent or good. The city received similar marks in response to questions about its honesty, transparency and fairness.

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