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Dougherty says Hays' water situation not dire -- yet

7/5/2013

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

It's a question Hays city commissioners have been fielding for a few months: In light of the prolonged regional drought conditions, why hasn't Hays, like some nearby cities, banned outside watering?

In answer to that question, City Manager Toby Dougherty updated commissioners during Tuesday's work session on Hays' drought status.

"I've had people call me and say, 'Why aren't you banning outdoor watering? You know they're banning outdoor watering in Ellis. If it's that bad, why don't you do this?' " Dougherty said.

The answer, Dougherty said, is the water situation in Hays is not yet as dire as it is in Ellis. Hays officials, he said, are looking at the situation long-term, as city staff frequently monitors the city's wellfields.

Since last summer, Hays has been in a water watch, during which the city asks residents to voluntarily cut back on water usage.

"When you get to warning (stage), that's when it's getting more serious," he said.

Should a water warning be issued, outdoor watering would be prohibited from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. During a water emergency, outdoor watering would be prohibited completely.

"If we go through the summer like we are, by September, we could be at the warning stage," Dougherty said. "I don't want to give anybody a false sense of security, because we do want to be cautious. But we aren't ready to sound the panic alarms and start manning the battle stations, meaning let's ban all outdoor watering, because we're not there yet.

"The progressive measures we have in place do not warrant (a ban on outside watering) yet."

The levels of conservation Hays residents are accustomed to, Dougherty said, have helped keep Hays from reaching more extreme levels. Per capita usage in Hays, he said, is 95 gallons per day.

"I actually like the idea that people are concerned enough that they're worried about cutting back outdoor watering," Dougherty said. "From an awareness standpoint, it's great that people are that aware. But I don't want to create this unrealistic panic or the unrealistic expectation that you guys and us are just sitting here twiddling our thumbs while the wells go dry, because that's not the case."