Native Hawaiians of Lāna‘i knew all of the sources of potable water on the island. Many of Lāna‘i’s place names are associated with water sources. The link titled Wai (Water) in Hawaiian Culture on the Island of Lāna‘i is an overview of traditional knowledge pertaining to “Wai o ke ola.”

Maunalei Stream, 1912 (R.J. Baker, HAPCo Collection)

Maunalei Stream, 2013 (Kepā Maly, photo)


.About 1890 the Hayseldens built the now abandoned rectangular 400,000 gallon Kaiholena reservoir and piped in water from the small stream farther up the Kaiholena gulch that ran each winter. If favored by summer “naulu” showers...

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Munro Water Report Continued (PDF)

Other than dew shaken from bushes on the upper lands, these were the only sources of water on the island available to the various populations over the years, estimated by Dr. Kenneth Emory of the Bishop Museum at some 3,000 people circa 1800. With such populations widely scattered over the island, their water problems can be readily imagined.

They found drinkable, brackish water in shallow wells they dug in places in shore  along the north and east coasts and in the Kaumalapau and Kaunolu gulches.They found the small springs and seeps in the Kaiholena, Kapano, Waiapaa and Waiakeakua gulches in the central part of the island that usually dried up each summer. They also found in the upper Maunalei gulch the only perennial stream on the island, emanating in the stream bed above and below the present upper tunnel. It probably flowed to sea only during freshets and above average wet periods. It normally percolated into the stream bed and disappeared entirely at various point downstream, depending on rainfall conditions.

The natives used this stream to grow taro until goats, left by early voyagers, increased to great numbers and denuded the steep walls of the gulch. This caused rocks to roll on the natives who finally abandoned the gulch. The original taro patch terraces are still visible above the pump station.

"Manuscript of James T. Munro, based on 40 years of work on Lanai in the field of water development. When the ancient Hawaiians first arrived on Lanai several hundred years ago, they no doubt found the same relatively dry island we know today.


history of Water resources on lĀna‘i 

Record of Water Supply of Lanai (ms J.T. Munro, Feb. 18, 1958)