HONOLULU — Multiple groups have come together to purchase one of the few remaining freshwater springs in East Honolulu.

County and state officials and East Honolulu community members celebrated Thursday over the $2.6 million public purchase of Kanewai Spring.

The purchase permanently protects a key source of freshwater for Maunalua Bay and opens up the lava tube-fed pool to conservation and education.

The spring is about 1,000 square feet (93 square meters). Its new conservation easement has binding restrictions that will be enforced by the city and monitored by area nonprofit Livable Hawai’i Kai Hui.

It resides in the backyard of a Kalanianaole Highway estate. The home remained unoccupied and deteriorating until 2010, when the Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center asked the landowner if it could restore the murky and stagnant waters of the forgotten spring.

“When we started, it was just a dream,” said Chris Cramer, president of the Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center. “There are a lot of emotions today.”

Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center will continue to oversee the land, encouraging Hawaiian cultural practices and hosting regular volunteer work days for schools and the community.

The purchase was made possible when the Department of Land and Natural Resources Legacy Land Conservation Program granted $1.3 million and the city’s Clean Water and Natural Land Program contributed $1 million. Local foundations and donors raised $350,000 for a sale engineered by the Trust for Public Lands.

The spring is believed to have once been a freshwater source for inhabitants of ancient caves nearby. The water is key to supporting the fresh-to-saltwater life cycle of aquatic native species by flowing into Kanewai Fishpond, the Paiko Lagoon Wildlife Sanctuary and then into Maunalua Bay.