Nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from lawns and agricultural lands can lead to an overgrowth of algae in nearshore waters. Large rain events also cause sediment to flow off the land and settle onto the reef, where they can be re-suspended for a long time. Sediment can prevent sunlight – an important ingredient for coral growth – from reaching reefs.
“Our goal with Hui O Ka Wai Ola is to supplement DOH water quality monitoring and, in doing so, create a more complete picture of the status of Maui’s near shore waters,” said Reed. “DOH is understaffed when it comes to water quality.”
From 2012 – 2014, 90% of the Department of Health’s water quality samples collected on Maui failed to meet state standards for nutrients, bacteria, and turbidity (a measure of water clarity). Program leaders say these results, combined with other data, raise concerns about the health of Maui’s coral reefs.
“We’re not going to accomplish this by edict or legislation or regulation, we’re going to accomplish this by establishing an ethic of water quality stewardship throughout Minnesota,” Dayton said.