- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - Maui County officials are considering ways to cope with drought the next time the island has a water shortage.

The current drought plan mandates that customers using more than 12,000 gallons per month cut usage by 20 percent or pay a $500 penalty, The Maui News reported (http://bit.ly/1rOp5gg ).

The Department of Water Supply has been pushing for a new system that would allow it to charge higher water rates during a drought or water shortage.

The projected increases under the proposed higher rate plan would be comparable to the penalties in the current drought plan, but department officials said it would be more efficient for both the department and customers.

“The reason we like the tiers is rather than going to your house, reading the meter and sending you a fine … the fine is built into your bill. So we can use the existing communication of sending your bill anyway,” Dave Taylor, the department’s director, told county council members during a Water Resources Committee meeting Wednesday. “That’s why we think this is a much more elegant situation, but really it’s the same thing. Cut back or you get charged,” he said.

The Water Resources Committee deferred action on the matter. Committee Chairman Michael Victorino said members will compare both the current drought plan and the department’s proposal at the committee’s next meeting Oct. 29.

The county isn’t in a drought right now, but upcounty Maui reservoir levels have dipped. Officials have called for a 10 percent voluntary cutback on water usage in the area for the next two to three months as a result.

Upcountry reservoir levels were at nearly 79 million gallons as of Wednesday. Customer demand was estimated to be about 6 million gallons per day.

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Information from: The Maui News, http://www.mauinews.com

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