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Water use rules now apply to private wells

4/11/2014

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Owners of private water wells in Hays no longer will operate under a different set of rules from residents who only use water supplied by the city.

The Division of Water Resources on Thursday granted authority to the city of Hays to extend its authority under the city’s water conservation plan to private water wells.

The extension doesn’t represent a big change, which takes effect immediately, other than no longer being able to water between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Under the terms of an intensive groundwater use control area put in place in 1985, private wells — as well as city-supplied water users — were prohibited from outside watering from noon to 7 p.m. from June 1 through the end of September.

The ban was extended for city-supplied users when the Hays City Commission agreed to move into the second phase of its water conservation plan. 

Letting water run into the gutters always has been subject to fine regardless of the source of water.

The change approved Thursday by DWR, the state agency regulating water use in Kansas, affects private water wells in the city of Hays. There’s a slight difference in the area covered by the IGUCA and the city’s current city limits, according to Assistant City Manager Paul Briseno.

The change also means private water well owners who violate the 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. water ban period will be subject to city fines.

“We encourage you to comply with the law,” Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler said during a press briefing Thursday afternoon.

Private water well owners have prompted most of the calls to the Hays Police Department for water use violations.

Scheibler said there have been 28 water use violations reported, only seven resulting in citations. Most of the calls involved private wells, which now are subject to the same penalties.

The first water use violation will result in a warning, while a second violation can result in a $50 fine. The fine increases to $200 for a third violation and again increases to $250 for the fourth and any subsequent violations in a 24-month period.

While it’s not known exactly how many private wells there are in Hays, Briseno said there’s likely more than 2,000. That’s because in the 1990s private wells had to be registered.

Additional wells have been drilled, but no longer must be registered.

This isn’t the first time a city has been handed the ability to regulate private wells.

“It is a first for the city of Hays but not the state of Kansas,” said Nicholas Willis, interim director of utilities for Hays.

Both Ellis and Salina have been granted authority to regulate private water wells.