Summer water restrictions will take effect Wednesday in the city of Hays. Outside watering will be prohibited between the hours of noon and 7 p.m. until Sept. 30. Evaporation is at its peak during the afternoon hours.
The hot-weather conservation efforts have been implemented every summer since 1985. Though the region has enjoyed significant rainfall this spring, it is still important to plan for the future, said Jacob Wood, Hays’ assistant city manager.
“It’s something we’re always thinking about,” Wood said of water conservation. “We know it’s raining right now, but we don’t know what it’s going to be like in six months. The goal is to always conserve, because every drop of water we use today is one we can’t use down the road.”
The following outdoor watering activities will be prohibited under the ordinance: Washing sidewalks, parking lots and driveways; allowing loss of water through leaks in plumbing systems or by runoff onto sidewalks or street guttering; and watering lawns.
Special permits can be issued by the city to allow exceptions for purposes such as watering newly seeded yards.
The water restrictions will be enforced, with the first violation resulting in a warning. Additional violations can result in monetary fines, which increase with each violation. The fines are cumulative over a two-year period.
Private wells in the city also fall under the restrictions.
Hays gets water from two wellfields, sourced by the Smoky Hill River and Big Creek. The area has received several inches of rain in the past month, and that has helped begin to replenish wells by the Smoky Hill River, Wood said.
The Big Creek wells have a different soil composition, which results in slower groundwater absorption and makes it more difficult for them to refill.
“Right now, you would think the wells should be full. It takes a much longer time for that to saturate all the way through into those wells,” Wood said. “I will say they have recovered some, but we’re not necessarily out of the woods. If it were to stop raining today, we would be back in the same situation in a couple of months.”
The city of Hays long has been a leader in water conservation efforts, offering other measures such as rebate programs for high-efficiency appliances and for homeowners who convert their lawns to drought-resistant grass.
Wood praised residents for their efforts to curb water use and make conservation a part of local culture.
“I noticed that when I moved into Hays, it’s something everybody thinks about,” he said. “They’re just part of the day-to-day here. It’s not the same in places where they haven’t had those sustained, long-term droughts.”