Wahiawa ditch line

One of the fortunate things at this moment in agriculture on the North Shore is that we still have an active (albeit admittedly decrepit) ditch water system, a legacy of the sugar barons that continues to deliver gravity-fed, partially treated water from Lake Wilson all along the Wahiawa ditch line, from Mokuleia to Kawailoa and Waimea.

The existence of this inexpensive water resource makes projects like ours more viable, and will continue to be a very important component of a viable diversified ag future locally. Unfortunately, issues of ‘deferred maintenance’, which began under sugar in the 1960s, have continued to plague the system, which is trapped in a bureaucratic morass between the state and several other for-profit and not-for-profit entities, not all of whom really care all that much about the system’s future. Just this past winter, the system’s capacity was reduced almost by half due to the loss of one of the mauka syphons. The replacement tactic was a short-term fix that shows no signs of being actually addressed anytime soon.

Back in the height of the sugar days, the bagasse-burning facility in Waialua actually generated so much excess power that they were able to pump water uphill to expand sugar further into central Oahu. The days of that type of environmental insanity are long gone, but the fact remains that anyone comitted to an agricultural future on the tablelands of north Oahu needs to keep a keen eye on the Lake Wilson ditch system–if it decays to a point where its failure becomes a reality, agriculture up here in the country will enter an even more troubled time.