Conserving Water in Hays, Kansas

Mar 22, 2017

Hays, Kansas Water Conservationist Jason Riegel explains that policies have increased the number of buffers that prevent water from flowing into streets. this owner also installed a 30,000 gallon rainwater cistern for irrigation.
Credit JASON RIEGEL / City of Hays, Kansas

Prior to adopting water conservation standards, many properties featured cool season grass up to curbs which did not prevent run-off.
Credit JASON RIEGEL / City of Hays, Kansas

Ogallala Blue, Water and Life on the High Plains explains how groundwater mining of the Ogallala has become a way of life. How much water do we urban folk utilize, and what can we do to reduce groundwater usage?  Fortunately, a modal to answer this question exists in Ellis County, KS, the only KS County having more than 15,000 population, too dry to rely on surface water supplies and lacking a substantial aquifer.

For the 20,000 citizens of Hays Kansas, located in Ellis County, retaining a quality life has meant water conservation.  Comparisons by USGS of City average per capita water usage in gallons from 2009 to 2013 measures Hay’s water efficiency: Colby 294 gpc, Goodland  283, Garden City: 204, Liberal 188, Dodge City 175 and Hays 93 gpc.

Jason Riegel, Hay’s Water Resources Specialist, identified education, incentives, and legislation as essential for conservation.  The city utilized multiple media forms to educate citizenry about conservation. City officials visited 4th grade classrooms urging change in water waste habits, and the city itself optimized reuse of water treatment effluent, with 25% of water now exiting the treatment plant being reused for watering of city green spaces.

Rebate program incentivized replacing irrigated cool season grasses, and using water efficient toilets and clothes washers, while an exchange program provided low flow showerheads and faucet aerators to citizenry.

Legislation was enacted to limit outdoor irrigation, which utilized ½ or more of summertime water use.  This legislation focused on irrigated lawn size, use of non-native lawn grasses, and irrigation runoff.  A tiered system of water usage costs was enacted, with each tier being increasingly more costly per unit of use.

Roof top capture systems. especially 50-gallon rain barrels, abound in the city,.  My own backyard contains a 425 gallon tank, but the water capture prize goes to our local Dermatologist, Donald Tillman, who, when building his new office, installed tanks capable of capturing 18,000 gallons of roof runoff.

The USDA finds the average person in the U.S. uses from 80 to 100 gallons of water per day.  Hays citizenry use 93, how does your use compare?  How can you reduce it? 

For pictures of Hays landscaping and a power point presentation by Jason Riegel go to features on HPPRs home page, and CLICK HERE .

I’m Paul Phillips helping to conserve water in Hays, Kansas