When it comes to conserving water, the City of Hays stands head and shoulders above most communities throughout the plains. Not having a readily available source of water either running through town or pooling naturally below might have prompted such action initially, but it takes serious commitment to maintain that mindset.
Of course, municipal ordinances help the effort. While many cities wait until conditions are severe enough to implement emergency measures, Hays enforces routine conservation techniques year-round.
Understanding that every little bit helps extend water's availability, city leaders long have attempted to tackle the issue from multiple fronts. Most residents don't give a second thought to low-flow toilets and showerheads in the home. Billing that uses winter usage as the baseline doesn't generate questions any longer, let alone complaints. Leaky pipes or faucets are fixed quickly as the charges for extra water surpass the repair cost in little time. Many people take advantage of the rebates available for energy-efficient washers and drought-resistant landscaping.
Compliance is just one of those things locals do; water conservation is that important.
The one exception that requires extra monitoring is the annual four-month-long ban on outdoor watering between noon and 7 p.m. For whatever reason, this measure appears to challenge people who have no problem adhering to all the other ordinances.
As the six-month period begins Saturday, we'd like to encourage everyone to do their part. While Hays already is in a voluntary water watch, the ordinance in effect from June 1 to Sept. 30 is an outright ban. The restriction applies to both city sources and private wells.
"The public's cooperation in conserving and making wise use of our water year-round is recognized and appreciated, most certainly this year during our drought," said Kim Rupp, city finance director.
Those planning on planting new lawns this year face additional restrictions. The city no longer issues permits for cool-season grasses from now until Aug. 25. Ten-day permits that allow watering between noon and 7 p.m. will be issued only for warm-season lawns.
Fines are in place to help encourage compliance. Officials track violations for two-year periods, with increasing amounts of penalties. A first offense will result in a warning. After that, pocketbooks are affected. A second offense will cost $50. A third is $200, fourth is $250 and anything beyond that will set a resident back $300 each time.
Law enforcement and city workers have plenty to do without taking time to watch for water running off your property or pooling at the bottom of your driveway. However, they will keep an eye on such offenses until compliance is as dependable as it is in all the other conservation measures.
Let's do what we can to make this a penalty-free summer. Having water to drink later on is worth so much more than a lush green lawn right now.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry