Kokua Line: Why save water when the power goes out?

Feb. 4—Question: In the past, we were told to conserve water when a blackout occurs, since we may run out of water, if not. Is that still the case? With the recent blackouts, we want to make sure we're doing the right thing.

Answer: Yes. During a power outage, people should limit water usage to essential needs only — drinking, cooking and personal hygiene, according to the Honolulu Board of Water Supply. The agency issued a reminder about this Friday, saying: "Due to this weekend's high winds, if power goes out in your area, please conserve water. ... In a power outage, the Board of Water Supply cannot run the pumps that refill its reservoirs. If customers continue to water lawns or wash laundry or their cars, the BWS system will run out of water. By limiting water use, you will do your part to help your community have enough water for their needs during the outage."

Q: Why do HECO's smart meters give estimated readings? ... If you go on your online account at hawaiianelectric.com and hit My Energy Use, and then choose Data (top, upper left), your daily usage will display. What's disturbing is that some of the daily usage numbers can have an asterisk next to it. The asterisk means it was an "estimated" number. Our current bill has 14 asterisks in a 30-day billing period (47%). This is unacceptable because we have a smart meter. The smart meter's new technology was supposed to put an end to estimated readings, not increase them. Many commenters on the NextDoor app say that their power bills increased after a smart meter installation. Something's not right. Can you find out? Estimated readings should not be happening with smart meters.

A: Here's Hawaiian Electric spokesperson Darren Pai's response, which explains that an asterisk can mean as little as 15 minutes of energy use that day was estimated:

"We appreciate that our customers are paying close attention to their electric bill and tracking their usage in the online My Energy Use portal. We also want to reassure customers that their bill is an accurate reflection of their energy use. The asterisks in question indicate that at least one 15-minute interval reading that day was estimated, usually due to wireless connectivity issues. It does not mean the customer's usage for the entire day is being estimated. If just one 15-minute interval of data is unavailable, about 1% of the day's data, a customer will see an asterisk. If a customer bill is estimated, it is noted on the actual bill with '(EST)' in the Bill Period section of the bill. The system will automatically check for any unusual changes in usage on a daily basis and alert our team for further review. If a customer notices a significant change in their electricity usage that is not typical for their household or business, please contact Customer Service for further help."

"Actual bill" means a monthly paper bill and/or a monthly bill viewed online in the customer's account.

Hawaiian Electric's website says that "all customers can benefit from the My Energy Use portal — not just those with advanced meters," which enable data to be shared between the customer and Hawaiian Electric. Read more at 808ne.ws/42rFKMC.

Q: Will the replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial be coming to Honolulu?

A: No, not on this trip, which is the first time "The Wall That Heals" mobile exhibit has been in the state of Hawaii. The three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., was displayed in Hilo from Jan. 24-28 and is moving to Maui, where it will be open to the public from Feb. 9-13 at War Memorial Stadium in Wailuku, according to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Those are the only islands on the schedule this visit, which you can read more about at vvmf.org/hawaii2024/.

Q: Are the safety check inspections working again?

A: Yes. After the vendor resolved the problem, safety inspection stations had to update their software, which more than half had done by noon Friday, allowing them to operate normally, the state Department of Transportation said. All safety inspection stations were notified by email and phone Friday to install the update, the DOT said. "Please contact your station before scheduling an inspection to make sure they have updated their software and are ready to inspect your vehicle," it said. The system was down all day Thursday.


I forgot to close my car trunk and a bag with items and medication flew out. By the time I got out of traffic and went back, someone had picked everything up and turned it in to Longs Pearlridge. I want to thank the moral person for his or her kindness. — C.W.


Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-500, Honolulu, HI 96813; call 808-529-4773; or email kokualine@staradvertiser.com.