Water Equity Clearinghouse

Hawai’i Community Foundation


Hawai’i Community Foundation (HCF) is an organization that connects donors to projects that improve communities across Hawaii. HCF helps donors find projects that speak to their interests, ensuring that their contributions have a maximum impact.

HCF connects key public, private and non-profit entities, but they also create and share new knowledge about pressing social issues affecting the island communities. The Catalyst Fund, an HCF initiative, contributes to this by scouting for new ideas to apply in the local context, strengthening leadership within the non-profit community, and promoting effective and strategic approaches among the donor community.

Beyond the challenges in Hawaiian society, HCF also shares data and information concerning their solutions. By leveraging the knowledge gained through donors and organizations, HCF can double their impact by ensuring other members in the network have access to this community intelligence.

College students, particularly non-traditional college students, can benefit from the nearly 200 different scholarships from individuals, businesses, community organizations, private foundations, as well as the HCF Community Scholarship Fund. So far, over $4 million in scholarships have gone to 1,400 college students.

As the largest grant maker in Hawaii, HCF recognizes the sheer impact they can have through building partnerships, sharing knowledge, and creating lasting change. However, they also recognize that evaluating and assessing their approach makes their work even more effective. Thus, HCF focuses on commissioning studies, evaluating programs and major initiatives, interviewing experts, sharing information in an online Knowledge Center, and listening to partners, donors, and grantees.

Efforts to Advance Water Equity

While most of the world is at risk of a freshwater crisis, Hawai’i is particularly threatened by declining rainfall linked to climate change, a population that’s doubled since 1959, record levels of tourism, and the destruction of half of Hawaii’s watershed forests. This will only deepen the disparity between urban residents that are served by well-run systems and rural populations that are typically underserved and rely on private systems without significant capacity. These areas have large native Hawaiian and lower-income populations that rely on catchment water, which is unsuitable for drinking due to agriculture runoff. Some residents have turned to buying water, which is prohibitively expensive for some.

Out of these factors, HCF recognized the need for Wai Maoli: Hawaii Fresh Water Initiative. This initiative convened local stakeholders working in agriculture, private landowners, scientists, and government officials to create a Fresh Water Council. The result was a Blueprint for Action, with the goal of providing 100 million gallons a day of reliable fresh water supply by 2030. The Council is setting out to achieve this by conserving 40 million gallons per day, recharging 30 million gallons per day, and reusing 30 million gallons per day – all by 2030. This initiative also helped support and pass key state laws during the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions that will improve Hawaii’s ability to capture, reuse, and store fresh water.

Between 1994 and 2004, HCF also committed itself to build momentum for the conservation movement in partnership with Hewlett and Packard Foundations. The resulting networks of watershed partnerships and land trusts became the crucial foundation of Hawaii’s conservation and stewardship community and now leverages millions of state and federal dollars for local conservation.

Geographic Scale:
Type of Organization:
Vulnerable Populations Served:
Lower-income Communities
Approach to Advancing Water Equity:
Funding and Finance