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Cities face water shortage during drought

During the summer months, Hays city officials urge residents to restrict outdoor water use.

Outdoor watering between noon and 7 p.m. is prohibited, as is wasting water. The time restrictions are in effect from June 1 to Sept. 30; wasting water is prohibited year-round.

The restrictions are for city water and well-water users alike. The Kansas Department of Agriculture water division also has banned outdoor use of private well water during the same time frame.

The water conservation ordinances are enforced by the Hays Police Department, which investigates incidents during routine patrol and receives complaints.

A resident's first violation results in a warning, with a $50 fee for the second, $200 for the third, $250 for the fourth and $300 for the fifth. These citations are issued by city government.

The city also has a year-round "water-waste" ordinance. Residents in violation of this ordinance must appear in municipal court.

"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 of Hays finance director.

Hays has been in a water watch, which calls for residents to voluntarily reduce water usage, since August 2012.

Recent updates to the city's lawn watering permit limit residents' ability to plant cool-season grasses. The city will not issue permits for cool-season yards between June 1 and Aug. 25, and will issue only 10-day permits for warm-season grasses.

Starting a cool-season lawn in the middle of summer just isn't practical, according to city of Hays Parks Director Jeff Boyle.

"Basically what happens is, you seed a cool-season yard in the heat of summer and your watering requirements are at least twice if not three times as heavy as if you had done that in springtime," Boyle said.

Cool-season permits, allowed from Aug. 25 to Sept. 30, will cost $100. The change reflects the city's efforts to encourage more native, less water-intensive plantings, Boyle said.

Additionally, permits can be issued to residents needing to rinse an impervious surface for sanitation reasons, or residents wanting to power-wash a house before painting. A permit for a benefit car wash also is necessary if it is from noon to 7 p.m. between June 1 and Sept. 30.

The permits can be obtained in the city clerk's office or by calling (785) 628-7300. The ordinance is available at haysusa.com.

Stricter water measures are in place for other towns in Ellis County. Ellis, in March 2013, enacted Stage 3 water restrictions, which prohibit outside watering from the city water supply. Use of private wells within city limits also is prohibited.

In Victoria, at a Stage 2 water warning level, outside watering is allowed between 5 and 10 a.m. and 7 and 10 p.m. for odd-numbered addresses on Tuesdays and Saturdays and even-numbered addresses Wednesdays and Sundays.

More frequent watering, however, is allowed for newly seeded lawns. Water permits can be issued to allow residents to water within restricted hours.