Published In

Environment and Planning E-Nature and Space

Document Type


Publication Date



Wastewater -- Management -- Technological innovations, Wastewater -- United States -- Law and legislation, Water quality management, Water utilities -- Law and legislation -- United States, Water-supply -- Government policy


In December 2016, Hawai‘i saw its last sugar harvest on a 36,000-acre plantation in Maui. In the preceding decades, Native Hawaiians had struggled to regain their water rights from a failing sugar industry that had dewatered the island's streams for centuries. Now, with the end of sugar, Native Hawaiian and environmental groups are working to restore traditional practices and diversified agriculture—goals which hinge upon changing water management practices and rewatering Maui's streams. In this paper we combine frameworks from the water justice literature with a just transitions framework typically applied to energy landscapes in order to examine ‘just water transitions’ in Maui. By synthesizing these frameworks, we show how water-based economic transitions can address the tradeoffs and reconfigurations of infrastructure and power required for a more just future. We examine three distinct visions of water management promoted by coalitions of actors in support of different types of agricultural production systems for the island. We argue that a just water transition – that is, a move toward a more culturally, politically, and ecologically just management of water – must engage with water-specific, place-specific, and historically grounded factors including the legacies of infrastructure, water laws, and powerful agricultural interests.


© Copyright the author(s)


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 25148486211052869.



Persistent Identifier

Included in

Geography Commons