A multi-phased study of ground-water resources, including well drilling, aquifer tests, analysis of ground-water discharge, and numerical ground-water modeling, indicates that the rocks of the southern Lihue Basin, Kauai, have permeabilities that are much lower than in most other areas of ground-water development in the Hawaiian islands. The regional hydraulic conductivity of the Koloa Volcanics, which dominates fresh ground-water flow in the basin, is about 0.275 foot per day. The Waimea Canyon Basalt which surrounds the basin and underlies the Koloa Volcanics within the basin is intruded by dikes that reduce the bulk hydraulic conductivity of the rocks to about 1.11 feet per day.
The low permeabilities result in steeper head gradients compared with other areas in the Hawaiian islands, and a higher proportion of ground-water discharging to streams than to the ocean. Water levels rise from near sea level at the coast to several hundreds of feet above sea level at the center of the basin a few miles inland. The high inland water levels are part of a completely saturated ground-water system. Because of the low regional hydraulic conductivity and high influx of water from recharge in the southern Lihue Basin, the rocks become saturated nearly to the surface and a variably saturated/unsaturated (perched) condition is not likely to exist. Streams incising the upper part of the aquifer drain ground water and keep the water levels just below the surface in most places. Streams thus play an important role in shaping the water table in the southern Lihue Basin. At least 62 percent of the ground water discharging from the aquifer in the southern Lihue Basin seeps to streams; the remainder seeps directly to the ocean or is withdrawn by wells.