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Water saving plan to expand

8/30/2013

By RANDY GONZALES

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

The city of Hays will add new water conservation measures in 2014.

The city's recently adopted 2014 budget included funds for increasing such efforts, according to Nick Willis, stormwater and water conservation manager for the city.

First is a rebate program for replacing urinals with more water-efficient versions. Older urinals typically use 1.3 gallons to flush, and a survey showed they are flushed on average 18 times per day.

"It's something that's never been targeted before," Willis said. "Back in the '90s, when they were working real hard on water conservation, pint urinals -- an eighth of a gallon -- they didn't exist.

"That's one of the types of things we're doing; probably not the sexiest program out there."

The rebate program likely would be $300 per urinal replaced, and the city also would waive building permit fees.

The city also will look into a leak detection program for water lines.

"In any given year, we lose a fraction of our water that leaves the water treatment plant and before it gets to customers," Willis said. "There's leaks you don't see."

Willis said the city of Salina had success with its water leak detection program in which technicians are hired to listen to the water lines for leaks, then pinpoint them for repair.

"It's something that's never been done in Hays," Willis said. "In the older parts of town, there's probably some leaks that go on -- sometimes they go on for years without anybody knowing it."

The city also plans changes for its lawn program, in which past residents were given free buffalograss seed.

"We think it's been somewhat successful, but you're not guaranteed any results with it," Willis said. "You give away seed, and maybe it doesn't take."

City staff has had discussions with lawn care providers to find out what their customers might prefer.

"The program would be more expansive," Willis said. "We would go to allowing a lot more variety of water-efficient landscaping, and paying for the result once it's converted."

The budget also has money for toilet replacement.

"There are some very efficient toilets out there," Willis said. "It will likely be a sliding scale rebate."

Willis also has had discussions with Midwest Energy auditors.

"A lot of energy use and water use overlap," he said.

The city plans to offer a commercial retrofit program.

"There would be a baseline rebate for very common equipment, for example ice machines," Willis said. "There's a lot of water-cooled ice machines. There's also a lot of water-cooled refrigeration and freezer equipment."

Some changes already have been adopted by city commissioners, while others still need to be brought before the commission. Water conservation has been a priority for commissioners, Willis said.

"The commission has been, and I will expect for the near future will continue to be, pretty involved in the water conservation issues," Willis said.

One thing Willis does is check out what other cities are doing and sees how their efforts could relate to Hays' conservation efforts.

"All of these programs have been done in other places," Willis said. "I've talked with people in charge of water conservation for their respective utilities. This is what worked."