It may just look like water flooding an area, but there are several very important things happening.
Do you like surfing or swimming in brown water? Neither do we. More importantly, neither do our coral reef ecosystems in the ocean. When we get a lot of rain on Maui, it has to go somewhere and in the end that somewhere is directly into the ocean. Imagine a flood. Rain is indiscriminate and falls on everything including mountains, volcanoes, roads, yards, parking lots, farms etc. Think of everything that comes into contact with each of those areas and how much of that could be picked up in a flood. Fertilizer, weedkillers, gasoline, oil, and even plain old dirt are all eligible to ride this water slide.
This is where wetlands come into play. Rainwater flows through watershed areas and meets wetlands either directly or through groundwater. The wetlands operate like a giant sponge and soak up the floodwater. When wetlands are properly preserved and allowed to operate, they filter out a lot of the hitchhikers we mentioned before they head into the ocean. The sponge effect reduces the floodwaters’ impact on our developed areas. Back in the day, wetlands were viewed as unkempt areas that needed to be controlled by development. Sadly, this sentiment caused us to lose many of these important areas. With the knowledge we have today, we need to work to preserve the remaining wetlands in our environment.