Ahupua'a: Water
Before the arrival of Europeans, water was controlled by the konohiki (manager) as part of the ahupua'a system. Water was sacred. It was a gift from Kane i ka wai ola (Procreator in the water of life), and delivered by Lono makua (the Rain Provider). How was wai managed and sustained in the ahupua'a of Nawiliwili Bay?
Water relies extensively on Native Planters in Old Hawaii by E.S. Craighill Handy and Elizazbeth Green Handy for information about the traditional Hawaiian use of water.

To the farmer, wai was life, wai was wealth, wai was the source of the law of the land. Wai was needed to grow kalo, the principal food resource. The right to use wai depended on the use of it. As long as the maka'ainana cultivated the land and contributed their share of labor required to maintain the water resource, they had a right to use the water for their kalo.
(Handy and Handy)

Photo by Chris Faye
Kalo lo'i alone could claim the water. Other plants were considered dry land crops, unless there was water to spare. People worked together to build and maintain lo'i (taro fields) and 'auwai (irrigation canals) in each of the ahupua'a of Nawiliwili Bay.(Handy and Handy)

cannot grow in stagnant water. It needs a constant supply of cool water flowing through it.. Although planters diverted water from the stream into an 'auwai to deliver this water to the lo'i, the total amount taken was never more that 50% of the total flow. Once used in the lo'i, the water was returned to the stream. Pani wai (dams) were used to divert the stream into the 'auwai. (Handy and Handy) To the left, a traditional 'auwai in Hule'ia with modern weeds.
These pani wai were built by stacking basalt boulders across a stream. This did not change the stream bottom and stream width, or block the passage of native stream animals from mauka to makai. Groups sharing the pani wai killed anyone who broke it, cramming the dead body into the break. Water was extremely serious to the native planter. (Handy and Handy)
Pani wai on Hule'ia Stream
Mirrored pondfields in Nawiliwili Valley
Photo courtesy of the Kaua'i Historical Society

The five stream valleys at Nawiliwili Bay would have been ideal for kalo. It is reported that kalo was grown all the way up the Nawiliwili River valley, up to half a mile above the mill.
(Handy and Handy)

Taro was grown all the way up the Nawiliwili Stream to half a mile above the mill.
Taro patches near Lihue, Kaua'i, Hawai'i, ca. 1886.
Photographer: Alfred Mitchell.
Photo courtesy of the Bishop Museum.
Pu'ali Taro at the mouth of Pu'ali Stream in 1905
Photo courtesy of the Kaua'i Historical Society
Kalo was planted at the seaward end of Pu'ali and Halehaka streams.
(Handy and Handy)
Kalapaki kalo
Kalo was grown in the streams, valleys, and springs of Kalapaki. Above, lo'i are visible in the valley behind the houses. The hill along the ocean was leveled and used to fill in this valley for the present hotel (Hobey Goodale)
Above, pond fields and fish ponds on the Niumalu Flats. Truly a wet land.
Photo courtesy of the Kaua'i Historical Society
The Hule'ia river valley was ideal for lo'i, with terraces up the river to Kipu Falls, and terraces up the streams that emptied into the Hule'ia. (Handy and Handy)
Another use of wai was for aquaculture. The invention of the loko ‘ia (fishpond) was a special achievement of the Hawaiians. Fishponds were highly productive and developed during the growth and expansion of the population. (Kirch) Historian Samuel Kamakau said those who had fishponds “loved the lands where they dwelt... Fishponds were things that beautified the land, and a land with many fishponds was called fat."
Alekoko Fishpond - still in use in 1934, with awa, 'anae, and Samoan crab (Hobey Goodale)
Photo courtesy of the Kaua'i Historical Society

Menehune Pond near Nawiliwili, Kaua'i, Hawai'i, ca.1912.
Photographer: Ray Jerome Baker.
Photo courtesy of the Bishop Museum.

Let's visit Alekoko fishpond in the 1930's with Hobey:
"One of my Japanese friends' father was a good friend of the caretaker at the fishpond. So the kaku, the barracuda, was giving him a bad time, you know, they eating all the small mullet, so they said, 'hey, what you boys want to do, you come up?' So we started out going. There were five of us. We started from Kalapaki, rowboat----rowed up to the fishpond and the old man came out, 'Oh, you guys gonna catch kaku. Good.' He said, 'you can throw your crab net in the river.' In the river was kapu, too, see, for everybody, konohiki, yeah? So he said, 'You guys can catch--put your crab net in the river, but don't-no catch the crab in the pond.' So, 'ok, ok.' And oh, those kids then oh, then nice big crabs, we catch em but he don't know. He gives us a chance, so we caught about three or four pretty good size crabs. And we caught about 8 or 10 kaku--one was almost five pounds, the damned kaku.
Oh, the old man was happy, and then he said,' wait, wait, wait, wait.' He came out to tell us it's two o'clock so you guys better go home. You have a long ways, against the wind and everything. So before we got going, he said, 'Let me see your crab. Did you catch any crab?' We said, yeah, and we showed him. He said, 'Oh, that's good. River crabs.' I didn't know what he meant. And he said, 'Wait.' And he went in with a scoop net in the pond by the gate--outlet--scooped two huge crabs and tied em all up so they couldn't bite em and everything and he said, 'OK, Hobey. You take em, you're my neighbor.' [laughs] 'Hobey, you take 'em home for your grandmother.' He knows where the hell we came from, you know. And, uh--oh, big. And we looked at those crabs. They're almost as blue like your shirt and the ones from the river were red and brown from mud, uh? I told the boys, I said, 'See. If we'd taken one of the pond crabs, he would have caught us right away.
' "
Kaua’i had 65 recorded fishponds, with at least 9 on the Hule’ia river. The main species of fish raised in ponds were awa (milkfish) and anae (mullet). It was not unusual for a taro farmer to cultivate o’opu and opae in his loko ‘ia kalo. (Wichman)
"'Ala ke kai o ka 'anae"
Fragrant is the soup of a big mullet.
A well to do person is attractive because of his prosperity. A fat mullet was well liked for broth.
Olelo Noeau # 106
Ki'o Wai
Photo courtesy of the Kaua'i Historical Society
Looking out to sea across the west side of Niumalu, we see the pond known as ki'o-wai (fresh water pond). A kio was a small pond used for stocking fish, usually attached to larger ponds. On the south side of Hule'ia was the fishpond known as ka ipo li'a (amorous sweetheart). Pepeawa was another large fish pond used as a boundary for Niumalu. (Frederick B. Wichman)

Tradition associates the most famous loko ‘ia, Alekoko Fishpond, with two ali’i, a brother and a sister. These fishponds were symbols of chiefly status and power, and usually under the direct control of ali’i or konohiki. The fish from these ponds often went to feed chiefly households. (Handy and Handy)
Alekoko today, plagued by the mangrove.
Photo by David Boynton
Water and fertile land were plentiful in the ahupua'a of Nawiliwili Bay. What were the qualities of ahupua'a land management that protected the sustainability of these resource?
Created June 2001