A Garden City water usage report orchestrated in partnership with the City of Garden City and the Finney County Economic Development Corp. shows that 40 percent of all water used in Garden City is dedicated to residential outdoor watering.

The report was released to area residents in early May for the second year in a row and notified them if their water usage projected for 2018 would be more or less than water usage in similar Garden City households, and if so, by how much.

The report uses data compiled by FCEDC Chief Strategic Analyst Shannon Dick and is organized into a document customized for each household and mailed by the city’s water office.

According to the standard section of the report, 11 percent of the city’s water usage is dedicated to public grounds, 11 percent is consumed commercially, 13 percent is consumed on the industrial level and indoor residential usage accounts for 25 percent.

It’s not surprising that residential outdoor watering uses up 40 percent of the city’s water supply. The water report indicates that more than 60 percent of residential water in Garden City is used for outdoor watering, translating to more than 1 billion gallons of water used every year.

Households that rely on timed irrigation systems actually use 50 percent more water outdoors than homes that don’t use them, according to the report, and about half the water used is wasted by over-watering and poorly maintained sprinkler systems.

To solve that problem, the city recommends that residents alter their landscapes or purchase WaterSense weather-based irrigation controllers to eliminate the guesswork inherent to irrigation system programming.

The report notes that the average home sprinkler system uses up to 3,000 gallons of water per cycle, and WaterSense controllers can automatically adjust watering cycles to account for weather events, resulting in savings of both water and money. Some of the controllers can even be controlled via smartphone.

As for indoor water usage, home owners and rental owners can save 3 to 7 gallons of water per flush by replacing older toilets installed before 1992 with WaterSense toilets that save 1.2 gallons per flush on average.

Old washing machines use extra water, too — as much as 45 gallons per laundry load. Conversely, more efficient, energy star-rated washers use between 15 to 30 gallons of water per load.

Fred Jones, the city’s water resource manager, came up with the idea for the report. He said the report’s purpose is to keep Garden City residents more informed about their comparative water use.

“That’s something that we don’t believe any other communities in Kansas are doing right now,” he said. “Basically, what we’ve done is taken our metering information from the neighborhoods and then combined that with our geographic information system.”

The new program also is intended to arm area residents with information that will help them contribute to the sustainability of the Ogallala Aquifer, Jones said. The Ogallala is declining and accounts for much of Kansas’ water supply, on which the local agricultural industry depends.

Agriculture makes up about 45 percent of the state’s economy, and Kansas holds approximately 3.5 million irrigated acres of farmland, with 1.4 million irrigated by the Ogallala. The Ogallala began to noticeably decline during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and today, swaths of western Kansas are facing total aquifer depletion within 25 years, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Jones noted that residents could acquire the kind of water conservation technology mentioned in the report “in short order” with the savings they would generate from their water bills.

Dick told FCEDC board members during their monthly meeting on Wednesday that the agency could contract the water use analytics service to other area communities directly impacted by the health of the Ogallala. FCEDC Board Chair Tom Walker suggested exploring a partnership with Hays, a regional hub for northwest Kansas with significant water conservation problems.

“We really hope that we can get it out to some of those other communities that are in more of a dire water situation than we are, because watering grass is such a big user of water,” Dick said.

He noted that the process of collecting the water usage data is not easy, and it would take an actual statistician to produce reports similar to those used in Garden City.

“This isn’t trivial, but we can help,” he said.

FCEDC President and CEO Lona DuVall agreed. She said the service presents “a great way for us to plan for our future and protect our future.”


Contact Mark Minton at mminton@gctelegram.com.