More important than the wind in discouraging beauty are the everpresent red dust and the lack of adequate water to encourage the growth of ornamental vegetation. Annual rainfall at Maunaloa has averaged twenty-eight inches during the past thirty years, but there is considerable variation from year to year. These statistics suggest moisture adequate to allow the growth of fairly abundant vegetation, but they are deceptive. Most of the rain falls during a short period of the winter months. In certain years a few days of torrential rains have produced a statistically normal year of precipitation but an actual year of drought. Much of the rainfall, coming as it does in heavy downpours, runs off rapidly to the sea. These heavy and rapid runoffs carry with them large quantities of soil from the pineapple fields, and have greatly eroded the slopes of western Molokai. Several cuts in the fields, up to fifty feet in depth, mark the principal channels of drainage. As a result of this rapid erosion, the ocean, for distances of a mile or more from the shore of western Molokai, has an opaque red-brown color from the fine soil which goes into suspension easily and never completely settles because of the action of the tides and waves.
The Mauna Loa tableland has no permanent streams, and no water is captured there. Water for domestic consumption and for use in insecticide and fertilizer emulsions for the pineapple fields is transported by pipeline from the rainy slopes of eastern Molokai. Irrigation of pineapple plants, a practice recently adopted on a limited scale by other Hawaiian plantations cultivating fields with inadequate rainfall, has never been introduced for lack of water. Although the water resources of eastern Molokai are fairly abundant, little has yet been captured because of the great expense involved. The amount which reaches Maunaloa is small. It is frequently necessary to ration water during the summer by sharply curtailing or prohibiting the watering of lawns and other vegetation and repeatedly cautioning the residents of the community to conserve water.
Water is an extremely important matter at Maunaloa and a subject of concern both in domestic life and in plantation operations, where it is vital for insecticide and fertilizer sprays. The water which reaches Maunaloa is the subject of many scatological jokes because of its amber color, caused by the presence of fine soil in suspension, and, so it is said, by pigments from organic matter through which the water runs before it is captured. Maunaloa water is the horror of the new housewife until she learns that it is perfectly potable and, with the aid of bluing and laundry bleaches, serves quite well to launder clothing.
The lack of water, the dust, the wind, and their isolation from other communities annoy many residents of Maunaloa, but no one complains about the temperature, which most persons find exactly to their liking, and preferable to that of most other Hawaiian communities. Lying at an attitude exceeding 1,000 feet, the village of Maunaloa is usually a few degrees cooler than Honolulu or coastal towns. The mean temperature is approximately 72°. Extreme temperatures reaching or exceeding 90° are uncommon and of brief duration. The months of January through March, when temperatures may drop below 60° at night, are sometimes chilly and a few people then use portable heaters. The wind which carries dust and inhibits the growth of garden plants serves in more acceptable fashion to make even the hottest days of August and September, which ordinarily have the highest temperatures, seem pleasant.