Hawaii's Water Wars: A Pacific Paradise Settles a Hellish Dispute Over a Scarce Resource
By Krag Unsoeld
This Article Summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: Unsoeld, Krag. "Hawaii's Water Wars: A Pacific Paradise Settles a Hellish Dispute Over a Scarce Resource." Consensus. Published by the Public Disputes Network. November 1988. No.1. Pp. 1, 8.
Public disputes over water issues in Hawaii has been on-going for many years. They escalated in 1978 with the adoption of "a constitutional provision requiring Hawaii's state legislature to protect, control, and manage the state's surface and ground water" (p. 1). Due to pressure from different interest groups, lawmakers were unable to adopt a state water code for the last decade, although several proposals had been suggested.
Finally a councilwoman, JoAnn Yukimura, decided to try mediation. She hoped that it would reframe the conflict by allowing the parties to move from focusing on their own interests to being able to look at a bigger picture, and that it would allow them for the first time to directly talk to each other. The mediation assumed the name of "Water Code Roundtable."
The meetings were closed to the public, which reduced the pressure on the parties to articulate positions to maintain support of their interest groups. It was agreed that decisions would be made through consensus. Some participants believed that the success of the mediation was due to the fact that they decided not to discuss very controversial issues (water ownership and quality, for example), on which agreement could not be reached. The result of the mediation was a 75-page water code proposal, the creation of an independent state water agency and the enaction of a system of water-use permits.