“Auwai” is a Hawaiian term for a man-made ditch that carries water. It’s a distinctive feature of the Kanehoa landscape and carries irrigation water from the Keanu’i’omano stream through the subdivision, to about 80 percent of our residents.
Richard Penhallow is credited with constructing the auwai in 1952. He was assistant manager of Parker Ranch at the time, and their cattle were developing hoof problems from the pastures on the wet side of the mountain. It was an especially acute problem for cows with calves. Bringing his irrigation experience from Oahu, he hired a skilled backhoe operator named Al Ho, and successfully constructed the auwai system that runs through Kanehoa today. Using a series of gates that were designed to collect and spill water, he created viable green pasture land for cattle in our desert climate.
When the subdivision was formed in 1986, the road construction cut off auwai service to some of the lower land. The lots that now occupy the mauka limits of the community, lots 1 thru 4, controlled the auwai system and formed the Huiouli Community Association (now retired) to manage auwai affairs. Distribution was reduced, and much of the water supply that exceeded what these participants could use was redirected back to the stream.
As homes were built and property owners began to live in Kanehoa, they expressed an interest in utilizing this unique water resource. Much of the original system was no longer viable, especially the upper path along the highway, due to unintentional flooding and liability concerns, so one of Ouli’s residents, Tom Noone, took on the task of reconstructing the Auwai system.
He installed underground water pipes with an outlet at each of the properties that could be served with this new configuration. Despite his exemplary design, the sporadic and variable nature of the stream’s water source when it flows, leaves us unable to serve everyone in our community.
The problem lies in the fact that Kanehoa is built on a hill, and water has a propensity to run downhill. The first water, and all the water if the flow is light, serves only the low altitude lots. Tom’s early plan to put flow restrictors on the individual intakes of the lower lots didn’t resolve the distribution inequity. We’ve now installed a manually operated single valve, at a point in the system where the water is about to drop down to the lower lots, and have experimented with various settings, and various times at which they are to be changed. It is an ongoing challenge and a continuing subject of discussion in the community.