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Commercial landscaping schemes that promote efficient water management are underway in Hays through the efforts of business owners and the city of Hays.

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Commercial landscaping schemes that promote efficient water management are underway in Hays through the efforts of business owners and the city of Hays.

For Dr. Donald Tillman, developing a landscape project at his dermatology office on Sternberg Drive has been a challenging project, one that will use not only drought-tolerant plantings but also an ambitious rainwater harvesting system.

"This is the first time that I know of that a commercial application is going to try to do something as a visible attempt to conserve water and to provide plantings that will facilitate the aesthetics, but at the same time be wiser in our water resource management," Tillman said.

One inch of rainwater collected off the roof of Tillman's office is hoped to fill the 8,000-gallon tank buried behind the office. A monitoring system will help track how much water will be used to irrigate the nearly one-acre lot.

Tillman admits he is one of Hays' top residential water users, but he said his "inappropriate strategy" for landscaping at his home prompted him to consider an alternative for his commercial property.

"Once I recognized how expensive it was at my home and the plantings I did at my home, how much (water) they require, I definitely wanted to do something different for my office," Tillman said. "That's what prompted everything here."

Tillman watched M&D employee Bill Dreher operate an excavator that lowered the 8,000-gallon cistern into the 8-by-26-foot hole behind Tillman's office Friday.

"This is a much bigger project than I expected," Tillman said.

Working with city of Hays staff members, including City Manager Toby Dougherty, Stormwater Superintendent Nick Willis and Director of Parks Jeff Boyle, Tillman plans to plant grasses and landscaping items from the city's approved planting list. In addition to city staff, Tillman consulted on the project with Kirby Barrett, landscape architect, and Stacie Minson, a watershed specialist with K-State Research and Extension.

Behind his office building, Tillman said, will be a native prairie. In front will be planted wild grasses and native plants.

"I think the project overall is going to be a good project," Tillman said.

Tillman approached Dougherty more than a year ago, looking for direction on his office landscaping project.

"Discussions led to an agreement between me and Dr. Tillman, where city staff would advise him throughout the process, review his plans," Dougherty said. "We would make suggestions on types of plants being used, plant locations, water usage, things like that.

"We would provide our expertise, and when the time is right, put some signage up, claiming this is a best practice example of wise water usage. And when we get our comprehensive website and programs developed, we could direct people to his location."

The city also has set up drought-tolerant demonstration plots in front of city hall, at 21st and Pershing Court, and has converted turf at Aubel-Bickle Park from a cool season to warm season grass.

"I think it's a good practice, on our part, to lead by example," Dougherty said. "To show people how things can look in practice."

In addition to Tillman's office, city staff also is working with Tom Thomas of Commerce Bank as landscaping for the newly constructed bank building at 22nd and Vine gets underway.

Dougherty said city staff approached Thomas after seeing the facility's plans to plant irrigated bluegrass on the property.

"Those are two places (Commerce Bank and Dr. Tillman's office), when we get ready to roll out this next round of programs, we will direct the public to these as examples of wise water usage," Dougherty said. "If you want to see how it works in action, here's a place you can go."

Dougherty said some financial incentives from the city had been given to both businesses to complete the projects.

"The city will be dollars ahead on the investment, and it'll help a little with the conversion," Dougherty said. "There was a small investment on our part, but it's well worth it in the long run."