The perennial flow provided by Waihe‘e River, Waiehu Stream, ‘Īao Stream, and Waikapū Stream, collectively known as Nā Wai ‘Ehā (“The Four Streams”), made it possible for widespread agricultural activities to flourish in the eastern part of West Maui, Hawai‘i. The streams of the Nā Wai ‘Ehā area flow in their upper reaches even during extended dry-weather conditions because of persistent groundwater discharge to the streams. Overall, the lower reaches of these streams lose water, which may contribute to groundwater recharge.
During climate years 1984–2007 (when complete streamflow records were available for Waihe‘e River and ‘Īao Stream), Waihe‘e River had the greatest median flow of the four streams upstream of the uppermost diversion on each stream. The median flows, in million gallons per day, during climate years 1984–2007 were: 34 for Waihe‘e River near an altitude of 605 feet; 25 for ‘Īao Stream near an altitude of 780 feet; and estimated to be 4.3 for Waikapū Stream near an altitude of 1,160 feet; 3.2 for North Waiehu Stream near an altitude of 880 feet; and 3.2 for South Waiehu Stream near an altitude of 870 feet. Existing stream diversions in the Nā Wai ‘Ehā area have a combined capacity exceeding at least 75 million gallons per day and are capable of diverting all or nearly all of the dry-weather flows of these streams, leaving some downstream reaches dry. Hourly photographs collected during 2006–2008 indicate that some stream reaches downstream of diversions are dry more than 50 percent of the time. Many of these reaches would be perennial or nearly perennial in the absence of diversions.