“Very memorable” is how City of Hays Water Conservation Specialist Holly Dickman describes the water conservation she learned as a young girl growing up in Schoenchen.

“We actually went on a tour of the Schoenchen well field,” recalls Dickman, who graduated from high school in 1998. “That would have been in about fifth grade. I just remember that.”

Now Dickman is teaching water conservation to students in Hays USD 489. Her first class this year was kindergartners at Wilson Elementary School. 

“The message hasn’t changed,” Dickman said. “I would say the kids are pretty knowledgeable. It is kind of a culture here.”

With September coming to a close, the annual summertime water restrictions enforced in Hays will lift Oct. 1.

The restrictions run each year from June 1 to Sept. 30. Established by city ordinance in the 1990s, the restrictions prohibit watering between noon and 7 p.m. It’s estimated about 50 percent of summer water use is for lawns and gardens.

Despite the lifting, water usage will be decreasing, she speculated, because the growing season is coming to an end anyway.

Still in place, however, is the city’s ordinance against wasting water. That ordinance prohibits residents from letting water run down the street, and doesn’t allow people to turn on the hose to wash down hard surfaces, such as driveways, sidewalks or parking lots. 

So far this year, the Hays Police Department has issued 28 warnings and only four tickets for violating the watering ban ordinance, said Lt. Tim Greenwood. 

“A first offense is automatically a warning ticket,” Greenwood said. “The second violation is a fine.”

The fine is $50. “We’ve had zero third, fourth or fifth violations,” he said.

This is still a good time to plant shrubs, trees, ornamental grasses and other perennials, Dickman said.

Dickman continues to promote the city’s turf replacement program. The city encourages warm season grasses in favor of cool season ones like tall fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass, which require more water. Warm season grasses, such as Buffalo and Bermuda, don’t require so much water and can grow during the heat of the summer.

Residents can call and request she do a pre-inspection of their existing lawn to see if they qualify.

She also suggests replacing turf with a mulched planting bed of trees and shrubs that need very little water. 

“Fall is a great time to plant some of those things,” Dickman said. 

The city gives a turf conversion rebate of $1 per square foot up to $1,500 per property.

“That’s a nice incentive,” she said. 

While Dickman doesn’t talk to school kids about the turf program, it’s likely they go home and remind mom and dad of other ways she’s described to save water.

Dickman tailors each program to the age group. For the Wilson kindergartners, she talked about shutting off the water when they brush their teeth, or running the dishwasher once it’s completely full. 

Mandy Meagher, kindergarten teacher at Wilson Elementary School, praised Dickman’s water conservation education program, even though the message isn’t entirely new to some of her students.

Since the program, Meagher has heard them mention the principles now and then. The other day during a hand-washing activity, one student reminded the others, “Remember, we can turn off the water.”

More information is available at www.watersmarthays.com.