By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
As drought pushes the city of Hays into the water warning stages, the city is looking to curb its own use.
The Hays Fire Department and the Parks Department are collaborating to join the effort.
Firefighters will train April 14 to April 16 in Aubel-Bickel Park for practice and to help water the park's grass.
The dual purpose prepares the emergency responders and helps keep the grass alive.
"It's just a smart way to use water more effectively," said Fire Chief Gary Brown.
The Fire Department also is using 50 percent less water for training and maintenance.
Fire trucks and the garage's floors will not be hose-washed as often, and the number of pumping and hose training exercises will be halved.
Routine fire hydrant flow testing, which uses approximately 1,000 gallons of water, and water main flushing both have been canceled.
The water shortage has forced the fire department to adjust operations.
"We have to balance our response readiness with the reality that we have a limited amount of water," he said. "So, we can't do everything like we did before the drought hit us."
The city fire department has not responded to the recent rural fires due to technical difficulties.
City firefighters are not equipped for action in rural areas because the trucks are not designed to operate off-road, and they need fire hydrants to pump water.
Jeff Boyle, city director of parks, said the city wants to set a good example of water sustainability.
"It shows the city is very proactive and being very conscious of water use here in Hays," Boyle said. "Obviously the city is asking people to conserve water, and therefore we should be doing the same thing."
Following the water watch and water warnings, the parks department has reduced water use 60 percent.