Large portions of ‘Īao Stream have been left bone-dry by diversions. Photo by Ed Greevy. All rights reserved.

In Wai We Trust

Balancing Hawai‘i’s water is a constant tug-of-war.

By Alyssa S. Navares Myers

Diamonds and oil may be among the world’s most expensive commodities, but even they are worthless without water. Water sustains cultures and countries in our growing global population, and, although it may not always carry a price tag, it is undoubtedly the most valued resource on Earth.

Hawaiians understood the importance and value of wai long before Europeans arrived. It was respected and managed as a kinolau, or physical embodiment, of the god Kāne. As an essential source of life, wai stretched mauka to makai through ahupua‘a—from the wao akua, realm of the gods, to the wao kanaka, realm of humans. Being so integral to the lives of all, Hawaiians believed water was a gift to be shared by everyone. Continue reading

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