UH leads $20M research partnership to secure Hawai‘i’s water future

‘Ike Wai project will provide critical data and models to water resource stakeholders

University of Hawaiʻi
Gwen Jacobs, (808) 956-5767
Director of Cyberinfrastructure, Information Technology Services
Posted: May 5, 2016

Piihonua bridge on the Big Island
Piihonua bridge on the Big Island

Link to video and sound (details below): http://bit.ly/1rYq9lt

Increasing population, changing land use practices and issues relating to climate change are contributing to growing concerns over water quality and quantity in Hawai‘i.  To help the state address this critical issue, the National Science Foundation has awarded $20M to the University of Hawaiʻi to do a five-year, groundbreaking study of water sustainability issues through a collaboration called ‘Ike Wai. 

The project name ‘Ike Wai symbolizes knowledge (‘ike) of water (wai) which informs values, policies and practices for managing this resource. The ‘Ike Wai program assembles UH, state and federal agencies and community partners to address critical gaps in the understanding of Hawai‘i’s water supply that limit decision making, planning and crisis responses. The project spans geophysics, microbiology, cyberinfrastructure, data modeling, indigenous knowledge and economic forecasting and pairs university scientists in partnerships with state and federal agencies and community groups.

 ‘Ike Wai will impact every citizen and business in the state, as it gives Hawai‘i policy makers the ability to make data-driven, community informed decisions about the future of water in Hawai‘i,” said UH Principle Investigator, Gwen Jacobs. “This exciting partnership will link cutting edge research directly to community needs to secure a sustainable water future for Hawai‘i and its neighbors in the Pacific.”

The overall goal of ‘Ike Wai is that new data on groundwater flow, sustainable yield and economic impact will help communities and state decision makers preserve Hawai‘i’s water resources for the future. ‘Ike Wai also incorporates important educational and cultural goals. New degree programs at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and new training programs at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa will produce a new generation of big data scientists and data analytics professionals in Hawai‘i. A collaboration with UH Mānoa’s Hawai‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge will imbue the ‘Ike Wai project with traditional understandings and values based in Hawaiian water management practices.

 “This is a compelling example of how the University of Hawai‘i is helping Hawai‘i and the world through our unique strengths and partnerships," said UH President David Lassner.  "It also exemplifies how we synthesize cutting edge research, education and traditional Hawaiian knowledge to address critical community issues, including through the utilization of modern cyberinfrastructure and data science."

 “Our ancestors had a sophisticated understanding of water sustainability practices,” said Gregory Chun, ‘Ike Wai team leader and Hawai‘inuiākea faculty member.  “‘Ike Wai will inform the state’s water policy and practices with new data and models and through the integration of traditional knowledge and values concerning this most precious of resources.”

ABOUT ‘IKE WAI:  ‘Ike Wai is a collaboration between the University of Hawai‘i, Hawaii State Departments of Health and Land and Natural Resources, Honolulu Board of Water Supply, Hawai‘i County Department of Water Supply, U.S. Geological Survey and community partners to create a data driven, sustainable water future for the state of Hawai‘i and its Pacific neighbors.  For more information see:  http: hawaii.edu/epscor/

LINK TO VIDEO AND SOUND: http://bit.ly/1rYq9lt

B-roll: (1:15)

9 shots of spring water in Pearl City


David Lassner, President, University of Hawai‘i (:11)

“This is a large $20-million dollar project with huge economic impact, intellectual impact and community impact across the entire state for the next five years.”

David Lassner, President, University of Hawai‘i(:18)

“Water really is life.  What we are doing here is applying the brainpower of the university, the wisdom of cultural practitioners and applying modern scientific techniques of big data, high performance computing and scientific visualization to bring insights that will benefit the people of Hawai‘i for years to come.”

Gregory Chun, Associate Specialist, Social Science Research Institute and Hawai‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, UH Mānoa (:12)

“‘We recognize there is a lot to learn from our ancestors about their understanding about the water resources.  They were extremely adept at observing nature’s cycles and the elements.”