Ecosystems

Aloha+ in the Ala Wai

Aloha+ in the Ala Wai 565 338 sbf_8oge5q

The Aloha+ Challenge was launched in 2014 and is a joint commitment to sustainability by Hawaiʻi’s leaders – the governor, the four county mayors, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and the Hawai‘i State Legislature. The Aloha+ Challenge includes six 2030 goals on clean energy, local food, natural resource management, waste reduction, smart sustainable communities, and green workforce and education. All six goals are being implemented in the Ala Wai Watershed by AWWC partners:

In 2015, the State of Hawaiʻi set for the University of Hawaii System to become net-zero energy by 2035, including the UH Mānoa campus in the Ala Wai Watershed. Hawaiian Electric Company is a member of the AWWC, and you can see solar PV panels on rooftops throughout the watershed!

Want to know where to get local food in the watershed? Check out the farmers market map on the Aloha+ Dashboard!

See the section on community restoration, invasive species, and water sensor network for organizations and initiatives that steward the natural resources in the Ala Wai Watershed.

See the litter prevention and pickup section for organizations and initiatives working on waste reduction, and check out the map of Ocean Friendly Restaurants in the watershed that minimize plastic use!

For organizations and initiatives working to make our communities smart and sustainable, see the disaster resilience, climate change planning, green infrastructure, and design solutions sections.

The watershed includes two major universities as well as dozens of elementary, middle, and high schools who are using the Ala Wai Watershed as a case study for place-based learning. For more information, check out the storytelling, systems thinking, and place based learning sections.

Cover photo credit: Hawaiʻi Green Growth

Neighbor Watersheds

Neighbor Watersheds 907 680 sbf_8oge5q

The ancient Hawaiian land division system included mokupuni (island) of Oʻahu was divided into six districts (moku) eighty-one self-sustaining watersheds (ahupuaʻa), which were sometimes divided further into ʻili (sub-watersheds). After creating the Ala Wai Canal and redirecting its tributaries, the Ala Wai Watershed now includes parts of the Waikīkī ahupuaʻa and the Honolulu ahupuaʻa. Although each watershed is unique, the AWWC works to share lessons and best practices with organizations and initiatives in other watersheds across the island and the state.

The bay that is part of the Ala Wai Watershed is called Māmala Bay, and its neighbor to the east is Maunalua Bay. Mālama Maunalua is a community non-profit that works to preserve Maunalua Bay and its watershed through cleanups, invasive algae removal, and watershed stewardship.

Paepae o Heʻeia is a non-profit dedicated to caring for the Heʻeia Fishpond and its watershed.

The Waiheʻe Ahupuaʻa Initiative is a partnership of the Board of Water Supply, Kualoa-Heeia Ecumenical Youth Project (KEY), and Hui O Koolaupoko.

The Koʻolau Mountains Watershed Partnership (KMWP) is an alliance of major public and private landowners (in the Ala Wai Watershed mainly DLNR DOFAW and the Board of Water Supply, and to a lesser extent Kamehameha Schools, Lyon Arboretum, and DHHL). The KMWP is one of many Watershed Partnerships across the state in the Hawaiʻi Alliance of Watershed Partnerships (HAWP) who coordinate across property boundaries to address invasive species and ungulates that threaten the health of native Hawaiian forest.

The Waiʻanae Mountains Watershed Partnership (WMWP) is part of the Hawaiʻi Alliance of Watershed Partnerships (HAWP), and the equivalent of the KMWP in the Waiʻanae Mountain Range.

Cover photo credit: Mālama Maunalua

Water Sensor Network

Water Sensor Network 854 385 sbf_8oge5q

Proper watershed management requires a thorough understanding of the water and ecosystem quality in the Ala Wai Watershed. Indicators include water depth and flow rates, sediment/turbidity, excess nutrients, chemicals, heavy metals, pathogens, temperature, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, biodiversity and habitat quality indicators. Water quality in the canal and streams is not currently monitored by the Department of Health, but the University of Hawaii and multiple schools in the watershed are gathering data that can inform decision making. Learn more how volunteers, students, and teachers are providing citizen science data in our Place Based Curricula section!

The University of Hawaiʻi SMART Ala Wai initiative brings together faculty, teachers, and students to develop a network of water quality sensors that gathers continuous data throughout the watershed. The technology required for creating sensors data loggers has become much cheaper, allowing for the deployment of many sensors that can easily be maintained by non-scientists.

In 2010, ‘Iolani School, located between the mouths of the Mānoa, Makiki, and Pālolo Streams, began to observe, collect, and analyze data in and around the Ala Wai Canal and the streams that feed it.  Named the Ala Wai Watershed Project, students continue to engage in real-world research that contributes to the understanding of the current state of the watershed and to the development of responses and solutions.  In addition to independent research, students in ‘Iolani School’s Robotics classes have built a remote-controlled Ala Wai Catamaran and several iterations of drones to collect water samples from the Ala Wai Canal for water quality analysis in the lab. In addition to ongoing water quality monitoring, ‘Iolani School’s Robotics students are designing and fabricating deployed sensors that will transmit data in real time for recording and analysis. ‘Iolani School also convenes Nā Wai ‘Ekolu, educators from institutions throughout the watershed, working closely with stream biologists and researchers at the University of Hawai’i.  Nā Wai ‘Ekolu aims to inspire and encourage schools that care deeply for their place through curriculum development and work in the streams and communities that surround them.

Nā Wai ‘Ekolu is a collective of educators from K-12 and higher education institutions along the Mānoa, Pālolo, and Makiki streams, who care deeply for their watershed through monitoring, research, restoration, and curriculum development with their students. To see the locations where active monitoring and restoration is under way, check out their interactive map!

The Ala Wai Watershed Association is a non-profit founded in 1996 that organizes volunteer, community education, and development activities, and conducts streambank restoration and research. This includes testing different restoration methodologies at Paradise Park in Mānoa to determine the impact of invasive vs. native vegetation on sediment runoff into the streams.

The AWWC’s Working Group on Environmental Quality, Research and Science helps coordinate the stakeholders who are gathering data to compare datasets and fill gaps in our understanding.

Cover photo credit: SMART Ala Wai

Invasive Species

Invasive Species 836 560 sbf_8oge5q

Invasive species outcompete native species in disturbed ecosystems, and they pose a number of threats to the Ala Wai Watershed. 1) Compared to native vegetation, invasive plants generally cause more runoff, which pollutes the streams with sediment and 2) reduces the recharge to our groundwater (The Ala Wai Watershed includes the Pālolo and part of the Nuʻuanu sector of the Honolulu Aquifer). 3) Invasive species and in particular albizia trees in the lower latitudes also create more storm damage and debris debris during a flood, because their trunks, branches, and roots are more likely to break off. 4) Feral pigs degrade the forest and their feces pollute the streams, and 5) invasive catfish are the most common invasive fish in the streams, outcompeting the native ʻoʻopu and others that are critical to the balance of our stream ecosystems.

The Ala Wai Watershed Association is a non-profit founded in 1996 that organizes volunteer, community education, and development activities, and conducts streambank restoration and research. This includes testing different restoration methodologies at Paradise Park in Mānoa to determine the impact of invasive vs. native vegetation on sediment runoff into the streams.

Nā Wai ‘Ekolu is a collective of educators from K-12 and higher education institutions along the Mānoa, Pālolo, and Makiki streams, who care deeply for their watershed through monitoring, research, restoration, and curriculum development with their students. This includes removing invasive catfish and improve the habitat for the native ʻoʻopu.

Almost all the upland forest in the watershed is managed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife and is designated as State Forest Reserve. Because of its comparatively good condition and lack of funding resources, the upland forest in the Ala Wai Watershed is not currently under active management for feral pig control or invasive management.

The Koʻolau Mountains Watershed Partnership (KMWP) is a voluntary alliance of major public and private landowners encompassing the Ko’olau range. Partners with lands located in the Ala Wai Watershed include DLNR DOFAW and the Board of Water Supply, and to a lesser extent Kamehameha Schools, Lyon Arboretum, and DHHL. The KMWP is one of multiple Watershed Partnerships in the State comprising the Hawaiʻi Alliance of Watershed Partnerships (HAWP)  whose kuleana span across property boundaries to preserve watershed function and address the invasive species that threaten the health of native Hawaiian forests.

The Lyon Arboretum Botanical Garden in Mānoa, run by the University of Hawaiʻi, offers not only research projects on native Hawaiian plants, conservation biology, and Hawaiian ethnobotany, but also community education and volunteer activities, as well as annual plant sales.

In 2018, the Hawaiʻi Invasive Species Council (HISC) released the Strategic Plan for the Control and Management of Albizia in Hawaiʻi that  provides a framework to minimize the impacts of albizia on the environment, human health, and infrastructure.

The AWWC’s Working Group on Environmental Quality, Research and Science helps connect partners and activities in the Ala Wai Watershed that work on invasive species issues to identify priority areas and share best practices.

Cover photo credit: Nā Wai ʻEkolu and ʻIolani School

Litter Prevention & Pickup

Litter Prevention & Pickup 489 299 sbf_8oge5q

Did you know every piece of litter on the street gets washed into the streams, the Ala Wai canal, and the ocean? Trash is gross, and it also damages our stream and marine ecosystems. That’s why so many groups and initiatives are coming together to solve this issue!

Sustainable Coastlines is a community non-profit that organizes large scale, hands-on beach cleanups, including the Ala Wai Canal, coordinates marine plastic pollution education programs, and works to implement solutions to catch floating debris through technologies like the SeaBin and Trash Water Wheel.

The City of Honolulu runs an Adopt-A-Stream / Adopt A Block program for City-owned parts of streams (currently in Mānoa and Palolo) and streets, and its Storm Drain Markers education program raises awareness that all rainwater flows into the Ala Wai Canal and the ocean.

Trees to Seas is a community education and restoration non-profit that does reef cleanups with SCUBA equipment, and stream cleanups in Palolo Valley (through DFM’s Adopt-A-Stream program).

Mālama Mānoa is a community organization that has adopted a part of Mānoa Stream (through DFM’s Adopt-A-Stream program) to keep it clean and prevent non-biodegradable materials from entering the ocean and harming marine life.

Hālau Kū Māna is a charter school located in Makiki with a strong place-based curriculum including stewardship of the Makiki Stream that runs through its campus.

Nā Wai ‘Ekolu is a collective of educators from K-12 and higher education institutions along the Mānoa, Pālolo, and Makiki streams, who care deeply for their watershed through monitoring, research, restoration, and curriculum development with their students.

The Surfrider Foundation Oʻahu Chapter works on water quality, beach access, coastal protection, plastic pollution, and ocean preservation. They coordinate volunteer cleanups, support legislation that protects our coastal areas and reduces our dependency on plastics, and run education programs and civic engagement workshops through their chapters and the Student Club Network. Check out their map of certified Ocean Friendly Restaurants that use less plastic – in the Ala Wai watershed and across the state!

The Waikīkī Improvement Association is a non-profit representing the Waikīkī business community and provides and among many things provides supplemental custodial and landscape maintenance services to keep Waikīkī clean. In addition, its Waikīkī ʻOhana Workforce conducts quarterly beach cleanups in Waikiki.

808 Cleanups is a non-profit that helps residents clean up their communities by coordinating cleanups and providing tools. Check out their map and adopt a site in your own community!

There are two government plans to address trash pollution in our environment, which also apply to the Ala Wai watershed: the Trash Reduction Plan of the Hawaiʻi State Department of Transportation, and the Trash Reduction Plan of the City & County’s Department of Facilities Maintenance (DFM), which aligns with the statewide plan and is part of DFM’s overall Stormwater Management Program Plan.

The AWWC’s Working Group on Environmental Quality, Research and Science helps coordinate volunteer activities and share data.

Cover photo credit: Nā Wai ʻEkolu and ʻIolani School