Climate Change Planning

Climate Change Planning

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Climate change is impacting Hawaiʻi in many different ways, and the Ala Wai Watershed is no exception. Sea level rise is a threat to the coastal and low-lying areas, changes in rainfall patterns will result in more heavy rain events, while at the same time reducing the average rainfall that recharges our groundwater. Changing weather patterns make hurricanes more intense and their likelihood more difficult to predict. In addition to climate change considerations increasingly featuring in the decision making on infrastructure, long-term planning, and disaster preparedness, there are several initiatives and institutions who specifically address climate change on Oʻahu and in the Ala Wai Watershed.

Check out what your neighborhood or favorite beach looks like if the sea level rises by 6 feet! NOAA’s Sea Level Rise Viewer and PACIOOS’s Hawaiʻi Sea Level Rise Viewer allow you to simulate different scenarios of sea level rise.

The City & County of Honolulu Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency is developing a Resilience Strategy supported by its membership in 100 Resilient Cities, an initiative pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation.

The City & County of Honolulu Climate Change Commission, which is staffed by the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, was created in 2016 and is tasked with gathering the latest science and information on climate change impacts to Hawaiʻi and provide advice and recommendations to plan for future climate scenarios.

The State’s Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission (previously the Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee) was created in 2017 and is tasked with providing direction, facilitation, coordination and planning among state and county agencies, federal agencies, and other partners about climate change mitigation (reduction of greenhouse gases) and climate change resilience and adaptation strategies.

Planning for Climate Change is one of several components to be addressed in the ongoing update of the Primary Urban Center Development Plan (PUC DP) through the City & County’s Department of Planning and Permitting (the Ala Wai Watershed is located in the PUC). The PUC DP was last updated in 2004 and is one of eight Development Plans that help implement the overall Oʻahu General Plan.

Planning for the Ala Wai watershed’s water demand and supply, future water demands, and supply options to meet those demands is addressed in the Board of Water Supply’s Primary Urban Center Watershed Management Plan (PUC WMP), prepared by Townscape Inc. The PUC WMP is a holistic watershed management plan that addresses the health and inter-relationships of land and water resources within the 105 square miles of urban Honolulu. This plan is in the drafting and public input phase and considers the climate impacts of changing rainfall, temperatures, and sea level rise as far out as the year 2100.

Some adaptation measures, in particular to sea level rise, may require adjustments to the City & County’s Land Use Ordinance (LUO).

The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) was asked to develop the Ala Wai Canal Project to reduce the impacts of a 100-year flood caused by heavy rains overflowing the streams and canal, which will become more likely due to climate change. Although the project was not conceived to address sea level rise, the preliminary designs take into account an intermediate sea level rise scenario of 2.5 feet by 2075 and 4 feet by 2125.

The Waikīkī Beach Special Improvement District Association (WBSIDA) facilitates coordinated management and long-term maintenance of Waikīkī Beach in the face of climate change impacts. Check out their list of ongoing projects, including beach profile and sediment studies, economic studies, and the Department of Land and Natural Resource’s plans to repair or replace the Royal Hawaiian Groin.

More information on partners and ongoing initiatives to plan for hazards related to climate change can be found in the Disaster Resilience and Infrastructure Planning sections.

The AWWC’s Working Group on Policy, Finance, and Infrastructure helps coordinate and raise awareness about how climate change considerations should be included in planning, infrastructure, and disaster preparedness decisions.

Cover photo credit: NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer