Five Signs the Wet Side of Hawaii is Not, and the Intimacy of Water Conservation

I used to do semi-regular Friday Five posts. This post can’t wait until Friday. I’m hoping that it will be obsolete by then, that it will plant the seeds of its own obsolescence… 🤞

You’ve probably heard people joke about how washing their car made it rain. I’ve written before about being a Little Stitious, so I would try car washing (Lord knows my car is dirty enough), but we don’t have the water to spare.

For those who don’t remember every detail of my life I’ve shared on the blog (for shame!), The Hubs and I are on catchment water. In other words, we get to shower because rain runs off the roof, into the gutters, through the pipes, into our catchment tank, and out of our taps. Or not. 🛁

This shouldn’t be a problem because we live in East Hawaii, aka windward Hawaii, aka The Wet Side of Big Island. Except lately it’s been not so wet, despite supposedly being The Wet Season. In fact, we’ve received about an inch and a half of rain over the past thirty days, with twenty days that were big fat zeros.

For context, here’s a math side trip (skip if you’re phobic).

I’m writing this in mid-January, 2023. From Dec 2021 to Jan 2022 we got a total 43” of rain (Dec ’21 was very wet with 38.4” and Jan ’22 was dry with 4.6”). So half that would be 21.5,” or about twenty more inches than we’ve had in the past month. 😱

What’s a desperate (Little Stitious) person to do?

I’ve left open vulnerable windows. You know, the ones with adjacent electronics you can’t live without like your desktop computer or ventilator. I’ve set out sun tea to brew. I’ve draped all kinds of fabric over fences to air. I’ve washed and bleached mold from So. Many. Places. Which might not seem as obvious, but things you make wet need time to dry.

(The mold cleaning is its own odyssey, and there’s still So. Much. To. Clean. Or burn. But I try to avoid horror in this blog, so I’m moving on. For now.)

I’ve done all of this and more, and still, it has not rained. What else might make it rain? My crazy writer brain says, writing a blog post about it not raining, of course!

So here I am, sharing Five Signs the wet side of Hawaii needs rain.

Number One: The grass has become as brown as dirt would be, in places that have dirt.

(We don’t have much in the way of dirt here. Sticky, gritty dust, lava rock, slowly decomposing cane grass, etc. But no soil that doesn’t come form a bag, which I feel like is a prerequisite of dirt.)

Number Two: Because there are no clouds, it often gets chilly at night.

I know, boo-hoo. Cry me a frozen river. (So long as it lands on our roof.) But it drops into the 40s in Upper Puna and here in Lower Puna it regularly drops into the 50s. In our house. I’m not complaining; it gives me an opportunity to comfortably wear socks. 🧦🧦

Number Three: Getting water can be challenging.

Most people in our district are on catchment water. In fact, so many people do not have access to piped county water that the Hawaii County Department of Water Supply has potable water spigot stations scattered around the island (only eighteen, according to the map on their website). You’ll find lines at these spigots, with people bringing almost every kind of “container” you can imagine.

Commercial water trucks also fill up there and will refill your catchment tank—for a fee—but good luck because there’s a wait list. And they are working crazy hours. A few nights ago, we heard a tanker truck’s pump rattling like a big generator in need of a tuneup at 10 p.m.

Number Four: Everything is covered with dust from the unpaved roads in our neighborhoods.

The dust on my car has spontaneously formed latte art. I think. I’ve had my eye on this one for several days. It could be the result of my butt or my purse brushing the door. It could be the product of some bored and artistically inclined person passing my car in a parking lot. We will never know. I’ve left it there because I like the mystery.

Number Five: Conversations with everyone—neighbors, cashiers, chiropractors—invariably begin with, how’s your tank?

That’s not Hawaii slang for How’s it going? Nor does it refer to our exorbitant gas prices, but rather the fullness of our catchment tanks.

These conversations may continue with a comparison of water conservation measures. What you share depends.

Imagine an Intimacy Graph, an x-y axis with how well you know the individual and how much TMI the conservation measure is considered in polite(ish) company. For example, not watering your lawn would be pretty low level on both axes. (Though I literally don’t know anyone in Puna that waters their lawn.) Likewise, saving your pasta boiling water for your plants.

The fact that you’ve stopped doing laundry at home ups the game a little. You have to be wearing obviously clean clothes when you share it, or get ready for the other person to take a cautionary step back. (Also, the laundromats are absolute zoos right now.)

Using buckets to catch the excess water from your outdoor showers for plant irrigation, that’s probably mid-grade. But discussing numbers of showers per week, shower techniques, those fall into the same category as no home laundry. It’s best to have showered in the past hour—still-wet hair is optimal—to avoid stink eye/stink step-back. Or you would anywhere but here, because we’re all in the same dry-docked boat.

What falls in the far upper right of the graph, intimate measures you’ll only share with your fairly intimate peeps?

Bathroom etiquette. Things like, the number of times you’ll avail yourself of the loo before flushing. Which reminds me, if you’re visiting someone in Puna, be sure to call before you drop by. We’ll be sure to do a courtesy flush. 😜