Hawaii Facing Drought
By Julie Galle, Weather.com, March 24, 2000
In the minds of many people, Hawaii is composed of lush, tropical islands, so it may be surprising to learn that part of the state is in the midst of a drought. The wet season is ending with rainfall totals well below normal. That has many ranchers and farmers concerned about the future. Areas hardest hit are in the central and southern portions of the state. Maui, Molokai and Lanai received less than .05 inches of rain so far this year, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. That follows locally heavy rainfall in parts of the country in December, which produced some flooding. The heavy rains eased dry conditions created by lower than average rainfall in November, 1999, but it was not enough to turn around the dry conditions. The relatively dry rainy season is one of many that the region has seen during the past several years. In all of 1998, Honolulu International Airport received only 4.52 inches of rain, compared to an average of nearly 22 inches, according to The Drought Monitor. This season's low rainfall is impacting ranchers who do not have access to municipal water systems. They rely on rainfall to replenish drinking water supplies for livestock.
"Right now, we haven't had any reports of crop losses, but we are aware that the ranches are starting to move the herds looking for greener pastures. Some of the smaller ranchers have begun hauling in livestock drinking water from (municipal) systems," said Paul Matsuo, Director of the Division of Agricultural Resource Management and agricultural water specialist at the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. While no crop losses have been reported yet, many sugar cane and macadamia nut producers are hoping for more rain. "It will likely reduce the season's (macadamia) crop, but we don't know how much," said Donald Martin, State Agricultural Statistician for the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. He added, "On the other hand, there are some orchards that are normally in the wetter areas that are benefiting from the dry weather." Martin specifically pointed to flower crops, but orchard crops also include tropical fruits, coffee and nuts. Hawaii may be best known for its pineapple production. State officials say the low rainfall will not impact that crop. Matsuo explained, "Most of the pineapple is grown on the northern islands, and northern islands get more rain than southern islands, generally." He added that pineapple is a long-term crop, so the planting season is not in jeopardy, as is the case with other crops.