Our Islands, Our Future

A volunteer-based water quality testing program known as Hui O Ka Wai Ola, Association of the Living Waters, recently began expanding its testing from West Maui to South Maui shoreline locations. The project informs residents about how clean the water is at their favorite beaches. It was made possible through a partnership with the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH), the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council (MNMRC), The Nature Conservancy, West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative, and the University of Hawaii Maui College.

“Hui O Ka Wai Ola is the first community-based water quality monitoring program in the state,” said Dr. Kim Falinski, Marine Science Advisor at The Nature Conservancy. “It periodically measures turbidity, a measure of water clarity, and nutrients in near-shore ocean water. Robin Newbold, co-founder and chair of MNMRC noted, “Our goal is to support the DOH and Maui County efforts to improve coastal water quality so that coral reefs and native fish populations thrive, and our residents and visitors are safe. We want to help identify problem areas, so remedial action may be taken to address the pollution as quickly as possible.”

Sofia de la Sota, South Maui Regional Coordinator and team leader, said, “A citizen science program like ours would not be possible without an amazing team of volunteers. More than 20 volunteers have completed intensive training and are ready to start water quality testing.” The team will test several factors: turbidity, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, and others. The test for nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous compounds, can indicate pollution from wastewater run-off from agriculture, landscaping, and golf courses. “Too many nutrients in the water can cause an increase in invasive algae, which is damaging to coral reefs,” de la Sota said. “The resulting data will be used to supplement DOH water quality monitoring on Maui and can be viewed at the Hui o Ka Wai Ola website.” To learn more about Hui O Ka Wai Ola, to donate or to volunteer, visit

During every collection period, the volunteers will also collect samples that will be frozen and shipped to the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology Laboratory on Oahu for nutrient analysis.

Sofia de la Sota, South Maui Regional Coordinator