As the hot summer months begin, the City of Hays overall is on track to continue and improve water conservation efforts.

Year-to-date water consumption is down 6 percent, and several rebate programs offered by the city continue to be popular with residents and businesses, said Jason Riegel, water conservation specialist, at Thursday’s Hays City Commission meeting.

To encourage saving water, the city long has offered rebate programs for efficient washing machines, shower heads, toilets and urinals, as well as turf conversion for those who switch their grass to warm season varieties that require less water.

The turf rebates are the highest demand, Riegel said.

“This is by far our bread and butter as far as potential savings go,” Riegel said.

The city offers a $1 rebate per square foot of converted grass, xeriscape or artificial turf. There is a minimum requirement of 100 square feet, with a maximum rebate of $1,000 per property. The program operates on a first-come, first-serve basis, as a limited number of rebates are funded each year.

So far in 2016, the city has provided 36 rebates, with a total of 52 claimed in 2015. This program alone is estimated to save approximately 2.7 acre-feet of water, Riegel said. The city spends approximately $30,000 per acre-foot of water supply, meaning this is a projected cost savings of approximately $80,000.

The rebate program for water-efficient urinals has not been popular, and Riegel said city staff soon might recommend to suspend that program and place those funds in a more widely used initiative.

There have not been any urinal rebates sought this year, despite a $50 reward offered to local plumbers who switch out old urinals.

“I thought that might spur some people to look into it, but it hasn’t yet,” Riegel said, noting it’s usually businesses that have a need for urinals. “I think it’s a sheer numbers game at this point. If you look at the amount of residential homes in town compared to the amount of businesses, it’s strictly a numbers game at this point. Each year, we’ve done less than 20.”

Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV said it might be helpful to approach top management officials for local institutions that could realize the most savings by converting their urinals.

“You’re dealing with large institutions where top management is not involved in this decision. They have no idea what the cost of the urinal is; they have no idea what their water usage is,” Schwaller said. “...The three organizations that would benefit from it the most and could actually do it, someone would just have to go to the president or the superintendent and say, ‘This is a big deal. You will save a lot of money,’ and get around the people in the middle who just don’t want to do it.”

The rebate program offers $300 per urinal, which is almost enough to pay for the cost of the new facility, Riegel said, noting USD 489 has changed out some of its urinals.

City Manager Toby Dougherty said the city has attempted to reach out to Fort Hays State University to inform them of the opportunity, but has not received response.

“Our urinal rebates are significantly high … $300 will almost buy you the urinal,” Dougherty said. “But you’re paying for the labor to put it in, then you’re realizing savings right away.”

For more information or to apply for a rebate program, visit haysusa.com.