Should Maui County Take Over Water Long Controlled By Private Companies? Voters will have a say in whether the county should create new water authorities charged with managing the island’s most precious natural resource.

The kalo farmer from East Maui had fought on the frontlines of the Vietnam War, and now he was back home battling for a basic human right: water.

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Ed Wendt was up against more than a century-old status quo in which the government permitted a plantation owned by Alexander & Baldwin to suck water from streams in his home on the lush east side of Maui and funnel it miles away to irrigate the ever-thirsty sugar cane fields in the central valley.

The sugar plantation was never supposed to take so much that communities like Wendt’s lost their source of water. But by the 1990s, streams ran dry. Native plants and animals that once flourished in delicate ecosystems disappeared. Families lost water needed to irrigate kalo fields that their ancestors had tended for generations, and some were forced to give up farming and move away.

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