Grant to advance innovative wastewater management for Hawaii

Jul 26, 2021

Aided by a $25,000 grant provided through the Ulupono Fund at Hawaii Community Foundation, WAI: Wastewater Alternatives and Innovations, is convening key stakeholders in wastewater management to advance rule changes regarding individual wastewater systems.

The grant is the second of two provided through the Ulupono Fund this year to the nonprofit corporation, which previously launched a pilot program to employ innovative sanitation technology at a Priority 1 cesspool conversion zone. As defined by the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH), cesspools in these zones appear to contribute to documented impacts on drinking water or human health, and appear to impact sensitive streams and coastal waters.

Guided by its mission to reduce sewage pollution and restore healthy watersheds by providing innovative, affordable and eco-friendly solutions to waste and wastewater management, WAI is finding creative ways to responsibly manage Hawaii’s waste and reduce the harm wastewater discharge from cesspools can do to our communities.

The DOH estimates that more than 88,000 cesspools throughout the state collectively discharge approximately 53 million gallons of raw sewage per day into our streams, rivers and surrounding ocean waters. These cesspools and failing septic systems contaminate drinking water, harm underground aquifers and pollute marine environments.

WAI is working with key stakeholders — including community groups, wastewater companies, government agencies, researchers, wastewater engineers and contractors — to create successful demonstration projects that reduce the risk to public health and serve as models for the rest of the state.

Click on the links below to learn more about the work being done by WAI: Wastewater Alternatives and Innovations from Stuart Coleman, its executive director and co-founder.

IDEAS Live: How Can We Improve Our Nearshore Ocean Waters?
Honolulu Civil Beat interview, June 2021
In this interview with Coleman, Dan Amato, of the Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force, and Emma Yeun, of the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources discuss improving Hawaii’s nearshore waters. Learn more about how wastewater in Hawaii is a multifaceted problem requiring input from many diverse groups.

IDEAS Essay: The Work To Convert Hawaii’s Cesspools Continues
By Stuart Coleman, June 6, 2021
There is federal money on the horizon and promising new technology too. Now, almost a year later, Hawaii has a major new ally in the works to convert cesspools: The federal government, which under the  administration of President Joe Biden is pushing policies and offering funding to do just that.

To learn more about WAI, visit