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'Interesting announcement' coming Thursday

7/1/2014

By NICK SCHWIEN and MIKE CORN

By NICK SCHWIEN and MIKE CORN

The Hays Daiy News

Happy with recent rains, Hays Mayor Henry Schwaller IV hinted an "interesting announcement" will be made at Thursday's upcoming meeting.

He made the comment after commissioners voted Monday to lift the ban on the sale and discharge of fireworks in a special meeting at city hall.

"The drought is not over,"  Schwaller said. "We are still about a foot shy of precipitation we should have. That said, we've had a lot of rain -- and it's been very good, particularly in the Smoky wellfield. I don't want to give away anything, but we're going to have a very interesting announcement on Thursday evening. So things are looking quite good for us. It's not the Big Creek wells in the city, but the Smoky is looking quite good."

While he wouldn't go beyond that, the city -- in a water warning for several months now -- has been looking at the prospect of rolling that back because of the rains.

Currently, the warning prohibits watering of lawns in city limits between the hours of 10 a.m. and 9 p.m.

While there's been relatively little improvement in water levels in the Big Creek aquifer in and around Hays, Smoky wells have seen significant improvement, and are back in the good category.

Water levels along the Smoky Hill River are up almost 3 feet since the first of June, when rains -- in some instances heavy rains -- started falling.

Commissioner Kent Steward, who voted to lift the ban as well, said he hopes residents remain aware ongoing drought conditions persist.

"I hope all of you who are here tonight because you want fireworks would be personally aware and share with others that still today, we're still in a drought," he said. "We're looking to go to Edwards County to bring water to Hays, and that's going to cost us $65 million, we're estimating. If people continue to conserve, we can continue to put that expense off way far into the future. If people don't conserve, then you're looking at your water bill maybe doubling if we go forward with that process.

"And if the drought continues another year or two years or three years, we can reach the point -- we're not at that yet -- where we're not actually having enough water to meet our basic needs of drinking. So this is not an insignificant thing. The point I want to make is it's really green out there. Let's enjoy fireworks out there, but let's not be confused about the water situation we're dealing with here."