Uwē ka lani, ola ka honua – When it rains, the earth revives (‘Ōlelo No‘eau 2888, Pukui.)
Water stewardship is fundamental to healthy land and communities. As such, how we use, treat, and reuse water are always top of mind at Bio-Logical Capital. We seek opportunities to protect and heal forest watersheds that supply our water, improve water use practices and management, and build a strong water system that stewards this resource from the moment a water droplet falls atop a mountain to the moment it enters the ocean.
We start by looking for ways to streamline how we use water and conserve this valuable resource. As residents, businesses, and farmers we can make wise water-use decisions in our landscaping, appliance choices, and land planning. It also helps to have efficient and appropriately scaled distribution systems. In the water systems that Bio-Logical Capital develops, we carefully plan for smaller-scale systems to minimize the amount of water that is lost in transit from its source to when it comes out the tap. And, we ensure management practices—for agriculture, business, and other industries—minimize water consumption.
We have a reciprocal relationship with our watershed forests. They depend on us to help them thrive; we depend on the forests to give us water to survive. Our approach includes protecting forests and other ecosystems that attract, purify, and store water. This includes native forest restoration, forest conservation, and farming practices that build healthy soil that holds water and prevents erosion.
Nature has its own ways to clean water by using plants, soil, and bacteria to filter and process pollutants. The most efficient systems for this natural purification process are wetlands, home to microorganisms that either use or breakdown the contaminants in water.
Over the last 30 years, people have developed wastewater treatment facilities that mimic natural wetlands. Just like in nature, wastewater is filtered by sand beds, nutrients are consumed by plants and organisms in reed beds, and ultimately water passes slowly through a series of pools and saturated soils that look and function like natural wetlands. These systems can be scaled to serve individual buildings all the way up to cities. They produce water that is cleaner than water from common water purification plants and provide wetland habitat for birds, animals, and plants. Bio-Logical Capital is committed to using these nature-like systems to treat water and has developed partnerships with experts to design, construct, operate, and manage these facilities.
Nature also handles storm water in a way that avoids many of the problems that traditional storm sewers create. Storm water may become contaminated with pollutants from roads, parking lots or lawns as it makes its way to the storm sewer, and when there is a heavy rain, water can overfill the sewer and flood surrounding streets.
In nature, storm water is managed where it lands: it sinks into the soil, flows in sheets toward low depressions, and is held in place, on the surface, until it has the opportunity to infiltrate into the ground or slowly runoff in stream beds. From there it is filtered by vegetation and slowed by natural twists, turns, rocks, and other obstacles.
Bio-Logical Capital’s approach to storm water treatment mimics nature: we choose permeable paving materials that allow water to trickle through. And we use vegetated swales, rather than storm sewers, to carry run-off and filter and trap pollutants.
Water has a continuous and important presence in the islands and we aim to protect and celebrate its role in our community. Imagine a visit to water treatment wetlands in which you walk and enjoy the diverse plants, flowers, and wildlife of a healthy wetland system. You follow the trail of water from fountains, trickling streams, temporary waterfalls, water wheels, and green swales of an open storm water management system. You see how the water system penetrates throughout the community. At home, you are empowered to make smart choices like using a rainwater capture system to turn the water that falls on your roof into a resource you can use in your own home to irrigate your gardens, flush your toilets, or wash your cars.
Through sustainable management of the whole water cycle, we can enable healthy waterways that protect rivers, streams, and the ocean; the unique plant, fish, and wildlife communities that live nearby; and the reefs and fisheries near the shore. This approach also helps to recharge and replenish local aquifers with fresh, clean water.
Water that isn’t properly treated can carry infectious bacteria, viruses, parasites, and toxic chemicals that can have dire effects on human health – from diseases like cancer, cholera, and typhoid fever to immune system suppression, reproductive failure, or acute poisoning. Many water treatment plants use chemical disinfectants to maintain safe levels of water purity. These chemicals can irritate human respiratory systems and have their own adverse health effects. Natural storm water, wastewater, and potable water management processes enable a comprehensive and sustainable water system that protects human health.
Nature-based water management practices generate more and cleaner water to be used and reused in ways that benefit the community. Wastewater from local homes can be used to flush toilets, wash cars, and water gardens. It can also be used to irrigate local fields, orchards and vineyards. Abundant, clean water in local streams and lakes enables more fishing and other recreation opportunities. Protected forests and other ecosystems can store more groundwater, creating a long-term source of water, even in times of drought.
Governor Neil Abercrombie said, “Energy independence, environmental sustainability, food sustainability—they all come back to water” (in Wai, February 2012). Water stewardship ensures a natural water supply that is clean, renewable, and can serve the community’s needs. By promoting efficiency and conservation, we reduce the chance of insufficient water to meet all demands, including that needed for ecosystems to function effectively.