Recent rains improve city water conditions

While Hays sits in year four of a severe drought, recent rains have improved city water conditions.

The declining water levels and limited rainfall in recent years contributed to the shortage of water.

“With the positive rain fall in June, our wells are as good as they have been since 2011,” said Jason Riegel, City of Hays Water Conservation specialist. “We are about one to two inches below where we should be for 2014 and about 14 inches below since the beginning of the drought in 2011.”

Riegel further explained that the timing between rain storms was just as crucial as the rain itself.

In response to declining water levels in the city wells, the city raised the drought response to a water warning in February. It was then lowered to a water watch in the middle of July.

“There are three drought response levels,” Riegel said. “Stage one is a water watch, stage two is a water warning and stage 3 is a water emergency. We raised the drought response level as a preventative measure to prevent a water emergency.”

“There is a misconception that the city had reached a critical shortage like many surrounding communities,” said Kent Steward, city commissioner. “We never reached that level. The city just took the necessary steps to ensure that didn’t happen.”

“Most people don’t realize how much water consumption goes up during the summer,” Steward said. “The amount of water consumption greatly reflects the amount of outdoor watering.”

The city has also adopted new policies and initiatives to continue improving water resources.

“Earlier this year we adopted the green plumbing regulations,” Riegel said. “These regulations set caps for flow rates on various plumbing fixtures to ensure water is conserved.”

The city also passed some land regulations encouraging residents to plant native grasses.

“We are also offering residents rebates to change out old plumbing fixtures,” Riegel said.

The city is offering an $150 rebate on toilets, $100 on washing machines and free showerhead exchange.

Steward also explained FHSU has taken an active role in conserving water.

“The university hasn’t been affected much,” Steward said. “The university’s water comes from both the city and the wells.”

Steward explained that FHSU uses water from the city water tower for the indoor drinking fountains and bathrooms. The wells are used for irrigation purposes around campus like watering the lawns. The wells on campus are not classified domestic wells, but as a state authorized water right to the wells.

“This summer the university complied voluntarily to city restrictions, even though legally we didn’t have to,” Steward said. “But, this meant that workers had to come in to work afterhours to run the sprinklers.”

The university is also making several changes to decrease its water usage and become more water efficient including replacing sprinkler heads and plumbing fixtures with high efficiency models.

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