Hālawa Xeriscape Garden

Name of case study

Hālawa Xeriscape Garden

Location

Aiea, Honolulu, Hawai’i

Year

1989

Scale

Building/single site

Area / size

exact size unkown

NbS employed

Xeriscaping

Type of NbS

created or constructed living ecosystems

Initiator

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS)

Funder

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS)

Budget

unknown

Design group

Paul Weissich

Hālawa Xeriscape Garden. Photo from Hawai’i Travel Guide
Hālawa Xeriscape Garden. Photo from Hawai’i Travel Guide
Climate change benefits
  • Changes in rainfall
  • Desertification
  • Drought
  • Increased temperatures
  • Loss of food production
  • Reduced fresh water availability / quality
  • Increased wildfire

The Hālawa Xeriscape Garden is providing local people with the resources and knowledge to create gardens that use minimal water and provide a source of local produce. 

In Te Moananui Oceania, managing water scarcity is a critical part of resilience to climate change. Hawai’i is experiencing water shortages caused by climate change. Over the last 30 years, rainfall in Hawai’i has decreased by 18% and the population has doubled since 1959 (Cheung 2022). Water contamination is increasingly problematic too. In 2021, it became clear that petroleum stored in an underground facility during the Second World War had begun leaking into Honolulu’s drinking water for example.

Water scarcity, combined with increased temperatures and damage to crops because of extreme weather events, means that Hawai’i is increasingly vulnerable to climate change. Xeriscaping provides an opportunity for locals to cultivate the botanical richness of Hawai’i and create green spaces, in a way that doesn’t use precious water resources.

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Societal / socio-cultural benefits
  • Food security
  • Fresh water security and quality

There is a local saying in Hawai’i, ola i ka wai, “water is life”. But increasingly, there is less rainfall, more droughts and water contaminant issues threatening the life source (water) of the islands. This affects the locals’ access to clean water and food, and is fundamentally damaging for communities across Hawai’i. 

Hawai’i relies on the health of its soil as an important natural resource; sugarcane, pineapples, coffee, macadamia nuts, and flowers are vital sources of income for the state’s economy (Cheung. 2022). Water scarcity and decreased rainfall damage traditional crops, impacting local food security, and driving prices up.

Xeriscaping creates opportunities for locals to grow their own produce and maintain them without large amounts of water. The Hālawa Xeriscape Garden’s education programmes aim to support those outcomes.

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Ecological benefits
  • Aesthetic value
  • Food production
  • Habitat provision
  • Species maintenance

Xeriscaping in Hawai’i is an opportunity to support local ecologies and habitat provision. By selecting plants for the garden that are native and/or naturally adjusted to the climate, the garden can support their growth.

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Summary of case study

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS) and the Friends of Halawa Xeriscape Garden (FOHXG), a non-profit community organisation, opened the Hālawa Xeriscape Garden in 1989 as a part of an education programme teaching people how to save water in lawns, gardens, and urban landscape areas. The FOHXG remains active today, supported by volunteers promoting water conservation and education. 

The garden displays a range of ‘xeric’ species that need a minimal amount of water and irrigation. There are frequent demonstrations of xeriscape practices, including propagation of native plants, soil improvement and mulching. There are also workshops on using xeriscaped plants and flowers for things like making traditional Hawai’ian lei (flower garlands) and wreaths. 

Hālawa Xeriscape Garden. Photo from Tours of Hawai’i
Hālawa Xeriscape Garden. Photo from Hawai’i Travel Guide

Volunteers maintain and care for the garden, and are encouraged to participate on days such as ‘Weedy Wednesdays’ and ‘Spruce up Saturdays’. 

The garden has become a local attraction, with tours and events. The garden sells plants for people to make their own xeri gardens, and is a source of knowledge, community connection, and education. It is a valuable local resource, using local botanical richness to create gardens that are beautiful, and sensitive to Hawai’i’s water scarcity issues and cultural context.

Volunteers at Hālawa Xeriscape Garden. Photo from Board of Water Supply.
References

Further resources

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