Clean Water for Reefs Puakō

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Clean Water for Reefs Puakō?

Clean Water for Reefs Puakō is a community-driven project that seeks to address wastewater pollution on Puakō Reef. Wastewater pollution is found off the entire coast of Puakō and causes severe damage to corals, negatively affects marine wildlife and poses human health risks. The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) facilitates the Clean Water for Reefs Puakō project alongside a formal Advisory Committee, which includes researchers, industry experts and community representatives, to ensure there is a broad and collective voice.

Please watch this short video that provides an overview of the project and the solution to remove wastewater from Puakō Reef.

What is the effect of sewage pollution on Puakō Reef?

Sewage contains harmful bacteria, pathogens and nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, pharmaceuticals, and other household chemicals. Excess nutrients can increase coral disease and cause destructive algal blooms that can kill corals and damage the coral reef ecosystem. Pathogens found in sewage have been linked to coral disease and human health concerns. Untreated sewage that leaches into the ocean continues to reduce the overall health of the reef. This decreases coral resilience and the ability for corals to survive and withstand global threats, such as coral bleaching.

For more information about the sewage problem in Puakō, please read “What’s in Our Water?” and visit the Resources & Research page.

What is the current status of the project?

In August of 2015, a formal recommendation was put forth with the best environmental results and most cost-effective solution for the Puakō community and its reef—an onsite treatment facility. In January 2017, we presented the estimated costs to implement on onsite wastewater treatment facility to homeowners at the Clean Water for Reefs Puakō Wastewater Forum. After a year of community engagement, we have learned that there is sufficient homeowner support if the cost can be reduced. Now, we need to reduce the cost of the recommended solution by $11 million to make this solution financially feasible to homeowners.

What is the best treatment option for Puakō and why?

After an in-depth review of the Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) that was publicly released in 2016, the Advisory Committee, AQUA Engineering and CORAL put forth a formal recommendation to pursue an onsite treatment facility. As compared with two other treatment options analyzed in the PER, the onsite treatment facility will deliver the best environmental impact for the community and the reefs, the highest treatment quality enabling 100 percent reuse of R1 treated effluent*, and can be implemented at the lowest 40-year life cycle cost.

*R1 water is the highest standard of treatment for wastewater in Hawaiʻi, removing the greatest amount of harmful nutrients and 99.999 percent of bacteria and pathogens. A full list of uses can be found on page 25 of the Hawaiʻi Department of Health Guidelines for the Treatment and Use of Recycled Water.

How much will a treatment facility cost?

Following collaboration with industry experts, we identified the ideal financing solution to be a Community Facilities District through Chapter 32. A special tax will be billed annually for each property owner based on two cost components:

  1. Operation and maintenance: Every homeowner will pay the same fee of $1,200 per year, which will increase at 3 percent per year; owners of undeveloped lots will not pay this fee.
  2. Facility rate: This special tax rate is based on the square footage of each home, which includes the debt service on a loan or municipal bond issuance to cover the capital and development costs, funds for capital replacement costs and a reserve fund. This rate stays the same over the life of the loan.

For more information, please consult the project brochure.

What are the next steps?

We need to hear from you. Tax Map Key (TMK) lot owners in Puakō and Waialea Bay, please take a moment to complete our short online survey.

How do I get involved?

We always welcome input including ideas, thoughts and questions. There are three main ways for you to receive information from Clean Water for Reefs Puakō.

  1. Community Events: To ensure this is an inclusive, community-uniting project, CORAL will host community meetings and events.
  2. Newsletter: Please sign-up to receive the Clean Water for Reefs Puakō Newsletter to receive periodic updates on the project. To view past newsletters, please click here.
  3. Contact CORAL: Danielle Swenson, CORAL Engagement Manager, or Erica Perez, CORAL Program Manager, are available to discuss the project. You can contact them at 808.721.6614 or

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