Ala Wai Watershed
The Ala Wai Watershed Collaboration (AWWC) is a broad network of stakeholders that formed to address storm water flood mitigation, ecosystem restoration, and overall community resilience. Building on several decades of watershed management and community efforts, the AWWC works to develop an ambitious and collaborative bottom-up vision for resilience and quality of life throughout the watershed. The Ala Wai watershed includes the most densely populated neighborhoods of Honolulu (200,000 residents and 80,000 visitors on any given day), and also the most vulnerable areas. Built on what used to be a coastal wetland at the base of the watershed, Waikiki has become the heart of Hawaii’s tourism economy, generating 7% of Hawaii’s GDP, 7% of civilian jobs, and 9% of state and county tax revenue. It is also particularly vulnerable to storm surges from the ocean, and downstream flooding of the Ala Wai canal. This vision is grounded in the legacy of Native Hawaiian natural resource management through the ahupuaa system, traditional divisions of land that provided a foundation for stewardship, governance, and sense of place. The AWWC coordinates action in the upper 40% of the watershed zoned as Conservation District, in the residential neighborhoods in Manoa, Palolo, and Makiki valleys, as well as in the coastal neighborhoods of Moiliili, McCully, and Waikiki bordering the Ala Wai canal. Members include state agencies, county offices, federal partners, research programs and centers at the university, community groups, environmental groups, and business partners, including hotels. An example of a comprehensive ma uka to ma kai (ridge-to-reef) approach to address all six of Hawaii’s Aloha+ Challenge statewide sustainability goals as a localized framework of the global United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement. The AWWC is structured in three Working Groups that advance the Collaboration’s 2018 scope of work:
- The Policy, Finance, and Infrastructure Working Group works on identifying policy options to enable (green) infrastructure solutions, supported by innovative financing models, including public-private partnerships. In 2018, the group is working with a legal contractor to develop recommendations for establishing a watershed improvement entity and is helping coordinate existing and proposed infrastructure projects in the watershed to align resources and increase efficiencies.
- The Environmental Quality, Research, and Science Working Group works to advance existing watershed-wide ecosystem restoration efforts, with a focus on improving water quality in streams and the Ala Wai canal itself. In 2018, the group is focusing on coordinating environmental data-gathering efforts to provide scientific baselines and justification of upstream watershed management.
- The Culture, Education, and Community Engagement Working Group grounds the AWWC’s work in culture and place. In 2018, the group is working to leverage Hawaii’s history of systems-thinking and natural resource stewardship through storytelling to inform planning in the watershed, and connect students and community members to the aina and ahupuaa.
HTA is proud to do its part as a major sponsor of the AWWC’s work in improving the health of our natural resources.