Aloha Aina Workforce: Moloaa Irrigation Coop

The Aloha Aina Workforce Program provided funding for the Moloaa Irrigation Coop to hire Adam Neaves as an Apprentice Water Systems Distribution Officer. The Coop (MIC) provides oversight of the 500,000 gallon water tank in Moloaa that serves 700 acres of farmland and residences on Kauai’s north shore. As it turns out, this is the ideal job for Adam.

Adam with his daughter Saraya in front of the 500,000 gallon water tank in Moloaa which is vital to the farming community.

The water tank is located at one of the highest points in Moloaa. You can see it as you drive north along Kuhio Hwy just past the Aliomanu area, green against the blue sky. It looks small from a distance, but holds an astonishing half million gallons of water. Municipalities have water departments to maintain their water systems for safety, but Moloaa is a region, not a city, and as such, Moloaa Irrigation Coop as a non-profit entity maintains the water.

Interest in Water

Adam owns and operates Living Roots Family Farm, specializing in dwarf and Malaysian coconuts. He has always wanted to be more farm-centric and focus his energies on the land, but as most small businesses find, he needed a side gig to supplement income. Performing music three nights a week was the income he needed to sustain his young family, but now that Covid is upon us, gigging was shut down along with most nightlife and Adam found himself in need of income. 

Moloaa can be very dry in the summer and fall months of the year and farmers find themselves dependent on the water tank for the survival of their farm.

In operating his farm, Adam became interested in water. For the summer months of the year, Moloaa is very dry. Without the water tank, most small farmland would dry up; they are dependent on the tank. Adam’s curiosity led him to apply for the Apprentice Water Systems Distribution Manager job. Louisa Wooton is the current General Manager and Distribution System Officer for Moloaa Irrigation Coop and has been managing the water system mostly on her own, even though it’s recommended that there are two officers for every drinking water system. She says it has been difficult to get young people interested in the science and mechanics of it and to step up – and Adam did!

Adam and Saraya taking a sample at the tank test location.

New Routine

Adam has a new routine. Every day, sometimes twice, he checks the water. This involves heading to four locations, one for each of the three huis of the Moloaa agricultural area as well as the water tank itself, and testing it for drinkability. He takes his water test kit with him and color matches the water from the three locations with the indicators on the test kit to test for chlorine residuals. He records his findings everyday. If anything is amiss, which is rare, Adam then remedies the situation with equipment and chemicals near the big green tank based on equations provided by the EPA. Because of his efforts, the water is safe for drinking and for crop management for farms and residences.

Equations on the wall tell how to calibrate the machinery that keeps the water healthy.

In addition to checking the water, Adam also maintains the water tank property itself, keeping the area free of weeds and debris. He is also taking classes on water maintenance in accord with the position of Water Distribution Officer. Adam learns from his supervisor, Louisa, but is taking trainings and certifications online, and even has a tutor for all the new information. He and Louisa both are learning about their new leak detecting equipment which will ultimately save the Coop time, money and resources. 

For the Future

Among employment with the Aloha Aina Workforce Program, Adam’s job is one of the more science-y jobs. He is starting from square one. The motivation that he can do something good for his community and sustain and maintain a major asset to farming keeps him going. His goal is to gain the education needed to become a Water Distribution Officer and continue to work with the Moloaa Irrigation Cooperative, serving his farming community and growing his farm, Living Roots Family Farm.