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City offers steady flow of conservation incentives





City of Hays staff has been on the lookout for water-saving ideas and will bring new proposals to commissioners throughout the upcoming 2014 budget process.

Many water conservation programs have been in the city's bag of tricks since the 1990s, including toilet rebates, buffalo grass seed giveaways, washer rebates and a shower head program.

Key proposals for 2014 include:

* Continue shower head program.

* Provide urinal rebates.

* Implement tank toilet program.

* Modify lawn program.

* Continue washer rebates.

* Implement commercial program.

Water fixture efficiencies have increased during the last decade, according to Nick Willis, city of Hays stormwater superintendent. Federal standards implemented in the 1990s have led to creation of shower heads that use only 1.5 gallons of water per minute, down from 2.25 gallons per minute.

Also available from the city are shut-off valves and aerators for kitchens and baths.

Willis said a water-saving potential of 15 to 24 acre-feet could be realized through implementation of a city urinal rebate program. In addition, replacing residential toilets with high-efficiency toilets could save 248 acre-feet per year.

One way of looking at the savings that could be realized by a toilet rebate program, Willis said, is to think of the savings in terms of city well capacity.

"We have a lot of wells that yield somewhere around 100 to 200 gallons per minute," Willis said. "You could turn one of those off."

City staff is exploring a turn-key installation program, in which the manufacturer of the 0.8 gallon toilet would contract with local plumbers and the city would, in turn, provide rebates.

"There's a lot of advantages to a program like this, particularly from a staff-time perspective," Willis said. "We wouldn't have to look at the receipts on a rebate and make sure that it was a compliant model.

"We wouldn't have to spot check, because if a toilet wasn't installed properly, we would know about it from the customer."

In addition to the plumbing fixture programs, staff members are working on new lawn programs, which would be more results-based and include xeriscaping. Efforts to promote conservation for commercial business water customers also are in the works. Commercial water customers use approximately 44 percent of Hays' water.

Under consideration for commercial users are implementing landscaping rules, minimizing cool season turf, xeriscaping and groundwater recharging.