Hilo Bay Waterkeeper


Rhiannon Tereari'i Chandler-‘Iao
[email protected]
(808) 757-1488

The community of Hilo, on the east side of Hawai‘i Island, is the fourth wettest city in the United States. The Hilo district is punctuated with stunning waterfalls, fertile rainforests, and the States’ longest river. Downtown Hilo was built around the crescent-shaped Hilo Bay, which was transformed into a bustling harbor for the sugar industry by the mid-1800s. Hilo eventually became the seat of County government and is the largest city on the island with approximately 45,000 residents. While relatively calm, Hilo Bay is underutilized due to a heavy industrial boom in the mid-1900s that left the waters murky and the shoreline polluted. Adding to the challenge, circulation is greatly limited by the breakwall constructed in 1929 to weaken the force of incoming tsunamis. Moreover, Hawai‘i Island’s expansive growth patterns have allowed cesspools and other antiquated forms of wastewater infrastructure to contaminate the groundwater and compromise the area’s swimmable waters.  The Hilo Bay Waterkeeper will work alongside the community to address the following threats to Hilo Bay:  poor bay circulation due to the tsunami breakwall, stormwater runoff, inadequate wastewater infrastructure, legacy pollution from agricultural and commercial activities, and discharges from municipal facilities in Keaukaha.

Hilo Bay Waterkeeper is being created by several members of the Native Hawaiian community who are supported by scientists, educators, and others born and raised in Hilo. An advisory council of individuals who are ingrained in the community and knowledgeable about the area’s marine resources and water issues is being formed to support the work of the Waterkeeper.  Members will represent different geographical, cultural, and economic sectors within the community. The Hilo Bay Waterkeeper will be announced in late 2018 and will join the other Waterkeepers in the state which are housed under Waterkeepers Hawaiian Islands.  


Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center University of Hawai‘i, Hilo 1079 Kalanianaole Avenue
Hilo, Hawaii 96720