Water conservation topic of Holcomb council meeting





Due to the state's ongoing extreme drought and a steady drop in well water levels, the city of Holcomb is considering implementing its water conservation plan for the first time since the plan was implemented more than a decade ago, which could mean a change in water use for residents sometime this spring.

During Wednesday's Holcomb City Council meeting, council members reviewed data showing all five of the city's wells have had a similar drop in static water levels, basically the distance from ground level to the water, over the past three years. They've dropped from around 86 feet in 2010 to more than 120 feet down today.

Pete Earles, city engineer, said water levels are slowly dropping, a trend that's being seen all over western Kansas, and there is not a lot the city can do other than drilling deeper wells and keeping equipment in top shape to maintain efficiency.

The review of city wells was prompted by a letter from Gov. Sam Brownback asking all water suppliers in the state to review supplies and conservation plans, and consider updating plans to accommodate the ongoing drought conditions.

"We are not over-pumping our total water rights," Robin Pena, city administrator, said. "What we're seeing is just a tremendous drop in the water level."

Mayor Gary Newman said the city should educate the public about the problem between now and spring in order to be prepared if the drought continues and restrictions need to be implemented.

"With the drought continuing, we're going to want to prepare ourselves," Newman said. "If the heat continues like it has, we're certainly going to be at Stage 2."

The city already considers itself under Stage 1 of the plan because it is below 85 percent of capacity. General conservation measures in Stage 1 include encouraging the public to curtail some outdoor water use and make efficient use of indoor water, such as washing with full loads, taking short showers and not letting faucets run.

Stage 2 of the plan is triggered by any of four conditions, including a drop below 70 percent water storage capacity, ground water levels that fall 7 feet below normal season levels, pumping that lowers water levels to within 7 feet of the top of well screens, or demand for one day exceeds 1 million gallons per day.

In Stage 2, restrictions could include an odd/even lawn water system where residents with odd-numbered addresses would water on odd days, and even-numbered addresses would water on even days; restricting outdoor water use, including lawns and car washing, to before 10 a.m. and after 9 p.m.; and even extra charges for using an excess amount of water.

"I think the city should set an example for the public — things like not watering at one in the afternoon," Council member Tracy Davis said.

The conservation plan also includes Stage 3, a water emergency in which all outdoor water use would be banned and wasting water would be prohibited.

The council decided to contact the Kansas Water Office for assistance in updating its current water plan and indicated the city also will take steps to make the public more aware of water conservation issues in coming weeks.

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