Puakō’s Coral Reefs

The coral reefs located along the Puakō coast of South Kohala are some of the most intact and ecologically important reefs in the State of Hawaiʻi. Reefs in the South Kohala area are home to several culturally significant species, in addition to being used for recreational and commercial fishing, and providing economic benefits. 

But across the main Hawaiian Islands, 88,000 cesspools release an estimated 53 million gallons of raw sewage every day—and along the Puakō coastline there are close to 300 properties that use inadequate wastewater treatment systems. Because of Hawai’i’s highly porous geography, in some waterways and coastal areas, like Puakō, it can be mere hours before that sewage enters the marine environment.

Ensuring Clean Water for Reefs

We’ve partnered with the Puakō community since 2014 as they lead the way in a transition to improved wastewater treatment. The Puakō residents understand that this transition is vital to ensuring their health and the health of their reef, and they understand that the health of the reef is what makes their coastline so valuable and liveable.

One of the first steps we took with the Puakō Advisory Committee was to conduct a Preliminary Engineering Report with the help of AQUA Engineering. They put forth a formal recommendation to build an onsite treatment facility. The next step was to secure funding. Through our political engagement, we helped Hawai’i County secure $1.5M in state funding for the planning and design of a wastewater collection system. We are now working directly with Hawai’i County and state representatives to finalize plans for the treatment system and secure additional funding. 

This project is setting a precedent for communities across Hawai’i.

Get Involved

We need your voice and support to help save Puakō’s coral reefs. If you’re a resident of Puakō, please contact Erica Perez or the Puakō Advisory Committee to express your support and find out ways to get involved. 

Recent News
Erica Perez prepares to take water quality samples

Silver-Linings in Hawaii

It’s 5:30 a.m. on a Wednesday, and Erica Perez leaves her house in Hilo to start the slow, dark, one-and-a-half hour drive to the South Kohala coast on the other side of Hawai‘i’s Big Island. She arrives at the first site at 7:00 a.m., where she meets long-time community volunteer Keith Neal. They put their… Continue Reading →


Wastewater Do’s and Don’ts

While this was designed for the residents of Puakō, Hawai’i, this infosheet is applicable to residents of or tourists visiting coastal communities where cesspools are in use around the world. Read through these best practices to make sure you’re doing your part to protect coral reefs.

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