BY CORIE LYNN
Over the last twelve years, the Hays and Fort Hays State University communities have partnered in a rain barrel sale aimed at promoting local water conservation.
“This project has been around since 2009 and started as a pilot project to see if there was an interest in educating citizens on water quality through water conservation with FHSU Agriculture Department classes,” KSU Watershed Specialist, Stacie Minson said.
According to Minson, the rain barrel project was created by now-retired FHSU agricultural professors Dr. Jean Gleischner and Dr. Robert Stephenson.
Now, Minson leads the sale.
She says that they have sold 80 barrels this year, but since the beginning of the project, they have built and sold more than 6,000 barrels.
While the rain barrels allow community members to learn about home conservation.
Minson says that the project also enforces “the importance of picking up pet waste, proper use of fertilization, and disposing of household chemicals properly instead of allowing those nutrients and chemicals from running off their property during a rain event and entering the storm drain along their street and entering Big Creek.”
As important as the rain barrels are, they form a larger community effort to promote water conservation in the Hays area.
City of Hays Water Conservation Specialist Holly Dickman explains that conservation efforts, such as sale, are needed because Hays does not have a stable water source.
“And our water resources fluctuate based on weather conditions and precipitation amounts,” Dickman says. “This can be extremely problematic in drought years.”
Besides the rain barrel sale, she promotes additional conservation programs and tips for the Hays community.
Dr. Brittany Howell, Associate Professor of Agriculture at FHSU, serves on the KSU Big Creek Middle Smoky Hill River Watershed RAPs Leadership Team with Minson.
“So the whole purpose of that, really, is to have the best management of practices in this region for water quality,” Howell says.
Her own work in water conservation extends to her Principles of Feeding and Animal Nutrition classes, which she has entered in the yearly Hays water conservation poster contest.
Howell explains that the goal of the poster contest, which is open to everyone from kindergarteners to adults, is to create a broader awareness of water quality.
This year, her students took first, second and third place for posters promoting water management practices.
To Howell, her students need to learn conservation practices because of how heavily agriculture relies on water.
“We don’t have a lot of our own water resources nearby, so being really aware of how and what you do affects our water resources is really important,” she says.