Dr. Hamlin:
Jason Reigel, water conservation specialist for the city of Hays.

Jason:
That’s right.

Dr. Hamlin:
How does somebody get into water?

Jason:
Water conservation, it’s a forefront issue. It’s a keynote issue in Hays. I’ve been in municipal utility for my whole working career. There’s so many moving parts to municipal utility. There’s a perceived abundance or an expectation that everything’s going to work right with underground utilities all the time, and sometimes that’s not the case. There’s a lot of moving parts that take a drop of water that leaves the Smoky Hill Aquifer to make it to your tap. There’s a lot of moving parts there. As far as water conservation goes, it’s a keynote issue in Hays, and something I’m proud to be on board to help promote and keep the ball rolling from what Hays has already done for years and years and years.

Dr. Hamlin:
You’re from western Kansas though originally, right?

Jason:
Right, I am. I’m from Great Bend originally, born and raised there. Moved to Lawrence to attend the University of Kansas about 12 years ago.

Dr. Hamlin:
To study water or that kind of stuff?

Jason:
To study psychology actually. I’m a psychology …

Dr. Hamlin:
Psychology.

Jason:
Yep. I’m a psych major.

Dr. Hamlin:
How’d you get from there to here?

Jason:
After I graduated from the University of Kansas, my first job was with the utilities department with the city of Lawrence. It was actually working night shift at the water and wastewater plant and doing plant operations, plant maintenance, stuff like that. With a psych degree to working night shift, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s a rewarding career. There’s a rewarding start in something that I fell in love with, municipal utility, because it’s an invisible thing. Nobody can see water lines. Nobody can see sewer lines, so it’s sometimes a forgotten part of the community.

Dr. Hamlin:
So you started with the job you got, right? Then …

Jason:
Yeah, exactly, exactly. I was there for eight years at the city of Lawrence. Then my wife and I got the opportunity to move closer to family and relocate to Hays. We were familiar with Hays. I have family in Hays. So we were stoked to get into town. Lawrence has two water sources, the Clinton Lake and then the [Carr 00:03:23] River. Well, Clinton Lake had a [inaudible 00:03:24] outbreak. It causes a taste and odor issue in the water. We were looking at how can we …? It was causing issues, taste and odor, and we said how can we …? I’m losing it here.

Dr. Hamlin:
Were there issues in Lawrence that raised the possibility of coming to Hays? Was that …?

Jason:
There were. We had an issue at the Clinton Lake water treatment plant in Lawrence with an outbreak in taste and odor. It was an algae bi-product. It was during the drought of 2011, 2012, which hit Hays particularly hard too. We’re looking at water rationing. The director of utilities is also from … He’s from Ellinwood. He’s also a western Kansas guy. He said we need to look at what Hays… What does Hays do?

Dr. Hamlin:
Was water rationing the project you got established with at Lawrence?

Jason:
Certainly when I took an interest in what was going on in Hays. Then when the opportunity came to relocate, to take a position as water conservation specialist, the first one that I’m aware of, first conservation specialist in the state, I was excited to jump on board.

Dr. Hamlin:
What does it mean when you’re the first water conservation specialist in a place? Do you have to invent your job?

Jason:
Yeah, you do. I think Hays is unique in the sense that there’s not a lot of other counties or cities with our populous that have to worry so much about their water source, and it’s been a long time coming. “Wild Bill” Hickok stopped too early. I don’t know where he found water, a [inaudible 00:05:05] water source, but he found it somewhere. It’s probably dry by now. It is an important component to the community. It identifies the community. Hays is the best in the state, and they want to continue to be the best in the state.

Dr. Hamlin:
You came here to be the city of Hays’ water conservation specialist?

Jason:
That’s correct.

Dr. Hamlin:
Did anything surprise you when you got here?

Jason:
My biggest surprise, I think, was how engaged citizens and our customers are about water conservation. Early on, I’d probably been on the job three weeks or so, they said put a presentation together and go talk to eighth graders at the Sternberg Museum. I went. I put something together, a jovial trivia game, and I was amazed at the amount of knowledge that these eighth graders …. They knew ways to save water that were pretty innovative that most adults wouldn’t know. That really shows the reinforcement by generations going.

Dr. Hamlin:
Hays has been known as a place that does well with water. You think part of it is because there’s a water conservation culture here?

Jason:
There is. I definitely wish I could take credit for it. I’m sure the current city commission does too and the current city staff, but it’s a long time coming. It’s really a cultural part of what makes Hays, Hays. I know I’ve heard Commissioner Phelps talk about in the early 90s when they went out and did educational outreach that we just restarted doing last year. When they did it and went out and talked to fourth graders, he has people as adults that still come up to him and say, “I went off to college. I was chasing my roommates out of the shower and telling them to turn the water off when they brush their teeth.” It’s a longstanding thing and something that sticks with you, those habits you learn early on.

Dr. Hamlin:
So you came out here to do water conservation?

Jason:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Hamlin:
What does it look like when you’re doing your job? What do you do during the day?

Jason:
We have incentive programs to where we can help people through efficient technology and you’re also reinforcing good habits, but especially efficient technology, into saving water. There’s a lot of components to that. Really in Hays it’s about bathrooms, and it’s about grass. Those are the two things that really we focus on. The two most apparent ways to save in anybody’s household.

Dr. Hamlin:
That’s really interesting to me because what I’ve come to understand, that it is sort of surprising to me, is there’s this difference between the perception and the reality about water …

Jason:
That’s right.

Dr. Hamlin:
… in Hays.

Jason:
In Hays, yeah.

Dr. Hamlin:
What’s that all about?

Jason:
I often hear people talking about Hays running out of water. Are we going to run out of water? There’s zero chance …

Dr. Hamlin:
Zero?

Jason:
… that Hays is going to run out of water. Neighboring communities, Russell, Ellis, have banned outdoor watering, completely banned it. That would happen way before we’d ever run out of actual water.

Dr. Hamlin:
But they’re so close to us. How come they have a problem and we don’t?

Jason:
Our sources are more diversified. We don’t only have Big Creek, which is local here in town, our city wells, we have six wells on the Smoky Hill River. We also have six Dakota wells, which are deep, deep wells as the water’s … We do use that as a production well. The water’s kind of salty. The quality’s not very good, so we blend it with our Smoky water. Having a diversified source makes you drought resilient.

Dr. Hamlin:
So we just literally have a different source base?

Jason:
Right, yeah. A more diversified source base.

Dr. Hamlin:
A more diversified source base.

Jason:
Yep

   ***PROGRAM BREAK***

Dr. Hamlin:
What does that mean for you when you’re doing your job?

Jason:
A majority of our water comes from the Smoky Hill Aquifer and last year, we were in a rough spot last year before those June rains hit. The June rains hit. We saw some good recharge. Our well fields are in as good of a condition they’ve been since 2011, 2012 probably. The drought’s certainly not over, and I wouldn’t even think of … If you look at current drought monitors and drought forecasts, they say that drought removal’s likely for our area. I don’t …

Dr. Hamlin:
What’s really surprising to me is that I would not expect a water conservation specialist to say, “There’s zero chance we’re going to run out of water.” Don’t you run the risk of sending an opposite signal to people?

Jason:
But I don’t want the perception to be that it’s … There’s a quality of life component to water too. People need green spaces. People need swimming pools. There’s a quality of life component to water. I certainly don’t want to say go out there and waste as much as you can. Water your lawn every day and flush your toilet three times. I certainly don’t want to be the proponent of that. But the chance that we run out of water to drink, to sustain our community is slim.

Dr. Hamlin:
Is it just because Hays has a natural diverse source space, or does it also have a lot to do with choices that we’ve made?

Jason:
It does. Legislatively, there’s a long line of stuff that Hays has done, that California’s currently doing, that the media sometimes acts like is on the forefront. Water wasting violations, getting a ticket when you have water running down the sewer from your sprinklers. California’s just started instituting that. Hays has been doing that for 25 years: traditional rebate programs, rebates on the toilets, replacing low flow toilets, showerheads, washing machines, incentives to plant native plants to curb your outdoor water use. That’s things that Hays has done for a long time.

Dr. Hamlin:
If we’re doing it well, then what was there for you to do when you got here?

Jason:
The programs have been revamped. Right when I came on board, there’s were some plans in place to revamp some of these programs, but we did away with some of those incentives programs in the early 90s when that initial … The ’93 flood happened, the water source were full again. Then slowly since then, it’s been … And you get complacent. You look and say, “Okay, I’ve got this local showerhead program. I’ve got this washing machine rebate program. That’s good enough. That’s my conservation programs.” Well, then you get stagnant because the efficient uses of water are about as efficient as they can be. There’s only so many ways to save. Now, you got to look for innovative ways. Necessity’s the mother of invention. You have to look for innovative ways to save. One of those is we have a new turf conversion program where we’ll pay residents or commercial customers a dollar per square foot to take out thirsty landscape and put in more high plains, taller landscape.

Dr. Hamlin:
How do people come to even know those opportunities are available?

Jason:
We’ve tried to make both the incentive programs and just water in general something it would be hard to ignore in Hays through traditional media outlets, through radio, through TV, through internet, through newspaper. We’ll go talk to civic clubs, art walks. We try to be as visible as we can, so it’s something you can’t really ignore.

Dr. Hamlin:
Strong, diverse, reliable sources, effective long-term incentives?

Jason:
I wouldn’t call them reliable sources.

Dr. Hamlin:
Oh, okay.

Jason:
They’re certainly not reliable sources.

Dr. Hamlin:
What …?

Jason:
They’re prone to drought, and this area of the state is also prone to drought. We’ve been in a pretty severe drought since 2011 or ’12, so reliability is based purely on rainfall. We average 22 inches of rainfall a year. Don’t quite have enough rainfall to sustain those water sources like we did.

Dr. Hamlin:
Then what does it mean when we have a winter like we just had, really dry …

Jason:
Dry winters …

Dr. Hamlin:
… not enough snow?

Jason:
Drought winters are as much of a concern in northwest Kansas as dry springs. Some needed rainfall we’ve gotten recently, but dry springs are the biggest concern because that’s when our production starts ramping up. We [don’t 00:16:31] …

Dr. Hamlin:
What’s a dry spring compared to a normal spring, a good spring, whatever we need?

Jason:
If we’re on that 22-inch path annually by April, May, June, then we’re in pretty good shape going into the end of the summer. Now as far as rainfall-wise, amount-wise, we’re looking for enough.

Dr. Hamlin:
I guess what I’m still trying to wrap my head around is this idea that we aren’t going to run out of water. We’ve made good choices that have put us into this position. Then why does it such a big deal that we count? Why do we even measure this stuff around here?

Jason:
Hays is in a unique spot in the state. 105 counties in the state of Kansas, 34 with populations over 20,000, still very much a rural state. 29 of those 34 lie east of Highway 81. That’s a traditional dividing line through Concordia, Salina, Wichita, kind of a western/eastern Kansas dividing line, so 29 of those lie on or east of there. Eastern Kansas, obviously, is blessed with more surface water. Out of the five remaining western Kansas counties, only one does not lie on a major aquifer, Ogallala, Equus Beds, Great Bend Prairie and that’s Ellis County. That puts us in a unique geographical spot where we can’t rely on rainfall only, and our sources aren’t reliable enough to depend on. I know you asked why do we need conservation. Through legislative action, banning outdoor watering and, God forbid, if we ever had to ration water, but Hays is not going to run out of water. It’s not going to happen.

Dr. Hamlin:
We may have to adjust given whatever the realities of the situation are.

Jason:
Yeah. Last summer we were in a water warning, stage two. Our Smoky wells hit a trigger to put us in a water warning. Last summer we wouldn’t issue new lawn permits. We had some stuff that legislatively happens as part of our drought response plan. Having a strong drought response plan has been key for Hays. It’s something we keep an eye on weekly, daily. We’re checking well levels and making sure that we’re still in a good spot.

    ***PROGRAM BREAK***

Dr. Hamlin:
See when I think about conservation, I think about intentional, conscious usage, but that’s going to break down with different kinds of users. So who are the different kinds of users?

Jason:
On that same point, when I think about conservation … Some people use the term conservation and efficiency kind of synonymously.

Dr. Hamlin:
What’s the difference?

Jason:
Conservation, to me, is a short-term … we need to save water. I’m going to save water. Becoming water efficient, it’s a long-term commitment to saving a resource that is [particularly 00:22:37] the most important resource we have, without a doubt the most important resource we have. I think that sometimes those are used synonymously. I’m not sure they can be, and sometimes that does work.

Dr. Hamlin:
Sometimes you really do need people to actively conserve and get on a program for that, but at all times we have to be consciously efficient as much as we can.

Jason:
Yeah, yeah. That’s lesson one. A lot of times it’s reinforcing what we learned as kids and good habits and knowing that it’s a collective effort. You think if I change my showerhead from a two gallon a minute to a 1.5 gallon a minute, who cares? But if 50 people do that and then 100 people do that, it’s a collaborative effort between them.

Dr. Hamlin:
How does this break into economics, whether it’s the economics of the individual residential user versus what it’s doing to affect taxpayers, business owners? How do these things break down for you?

Jason:
There’s always an economic benefit. Rate structure is a pretty effective conservation measure. The more water you use, the more expensive it gets. People look at ways to start saving then. We have three tiers here in Hays, a three-tiered water system, a rate structure. The more you use over your normal average, the more expensive it gets. That’s really charging people for outdoor watering usually on lush landscapes that are nonnative plants in an unsuited environment. We’ve got tropical plants and fescue out there. They found in the high plains of Kansas we don’t have the water to supplement that.

Dr. Hamlin:
If it’s a individual taxpaying residential user, but they’ve traditionally had a really big beautiful garden where they grow their own food, and they can it. They do things that they need to do for the year, and it’s really a part of their quality of life. What does that mean for them when we get into conservation versus efficiency and their own personal economics?

Jason:
I agree there is a quality of life component to that gardening. That’s something that Hays has looked at in making a change to … A lot of people, that’s sometimes the only exercise they get especially the older folks.

Dr. Hamlin:
It’s a huge satisfaction.

Jason:
It is. It is. I would much rather see people using water on tomatoes and peppers and asparagus and on a vegetable garden then I would see them spraying on an acre of fescue.

Dr. Hamlin:
Are there priorities in this tiered structure as for who uses and for what and…

Jason:
I would say those people that hit in that second conservation tier, that outdoor what you’re keeping an eye on? Water use tier, are the people that need the probably most outreach and need the most assistance in. That’s why we have this turf conversion, ‘Cash for Grass’ program where we’re paying people to get rid of this grass because that not only has a benefit long-term for them on their water bill, it has a long term benefit for us delaying the inevitable having to go out and find a new water source.

Dr. Hamlin:
But there are things that we just can’t avoid around here. I mean farming is huge. They’ve got to have the water. Again, what are the kinds of choices that we have to make in order to make sure that’s all …?

Jason:
Ag is a huge economic driver in the state. Everybody knows that. But municipal use is such a small part of the overall water use in the state. Sometimes you get blinders on about municipal water use and the difference you’re making when … It’s just a drop in the bucket in the big scheme of things. I would say at a state level at some point there’ll need to be changes made to the way water’s allocated.

Dr. Hamlin:
What’s the difference between what’s happening to us and what’s happening in California, because that’s horrible?

Jason:
I think that’s a testament to prior city officials that saw the need for a drought response plan and executed it and followed every step. I think California, it’s too late. It could be too late. They say they have months of supply left, so they’re in a rough spot, and they might not ever recover without some drastic, serious looks in the mirror about growing almonds, which is the most water intensive crop you can grow and [crosstalk 00:27:53] …

Dr. Hamlin:
So they will literally have to change their economy and …

Jason:
I would say they’re going to have to make some pretty major changes to meet the demands. The governor says we need a 25% decrease in water usage over the next 12 months. Without some major changes that going to be really hard.

Dr. Hamlin:
Is there anything we need to change? I know you said that we’ve done a lot, and we’re in a good position because of that now, but what’s the future? How does that play out for what we need to be doing?

Jason:
I would say that the R9 Ranch in Edwards County is a water source the city’s owned since the early 90s. The Water Transfer Act that would allow us to transfer that water from basin to basin has never been used in its current form. There’s wheels in motion right now to start that, some behind the door stuff. Really my goal is not to deal with R9, it’s to deal with Smoky water, Big Creek water and help people, through incentive programs, through educational programs, conserve the water we have now.

    ***PROGRAM BREAK***

Dr. Hamlin:
What I think about when I hear this also is I think about California. I think about this perception versus reality out here. I mean I’m relieved to know it’s nowhere near that kind of situation, but I also think about the global issue. It just seems like there’s a big argument going on about what’s related to climate change, whether that exists. Is there any part of things that we see globally that is related to what we experience here?

Jason:
I do think so. I’ve seesawed on climate change. I don’t think you could ignore the majority of scientists who say the Earth is warming, and we are probably playing a part in doing that. I certainly do think that that plays a part in our extreme weather patterns. There’s been studies put out that say that we’re in a pretty long dry period. That 22 inches of annual precipitation we get might turn into 16, and that’s the new norm. That’s not far fetched. If you look at tree ring data that some people have looked at on prior long droughts, they happen. It’s not the three to five to seven year droughts. It’s the 10, 15, 20, 30, 100 year droughts that do happen worldwide, so I certainly don’t want to sound the alarm bell and tell everybody that we’re in that kind of spot, but it’s something to think about, a mega drought.

Dr. Hamlin:
When you read these studies, and I’m sure you keep up with the science in order to do your job and try to sift through these things, but is there anything that you read about and then you look and see the problems around here and think, “See, we’re already seeing some of that?”

Jason:
Yeah. I don’t know if I necessarily think that’s the case.

Dr. Hamlin:
Do you even think about problems that way in your job day to day?

Jason:
I do think I have a certain amount of just blinders on when it comes to …

Dr. Hamlin:
Every professional does probably.

Jason:
Yeah. It’s hard not to, when day to day you’re dealing with the incentive programs and educational programs, you lose sight of the 30,000 foot vantage point because you’re just now on the shoreline, and you lose sight of the shoreline sometimes. I certainly think that there’s things we can learn from California, and there’s things California can learn from us.

Dr. Hamlin:
What does a good water citizen look like? What are they doing routinely?

Jason:
I think being cognizant. Like I said early, it’s reinforcing the habits you learned when you were in third grade or three years old. Shut the water off when you brush your teeth. Take a short shower. Don’t waste water. It’s reinforcing of that, but it’s about being cognizant of how much water you’re using. You can come up with 100 different tips on how to save. Everybody knows if you throw a pair in jeans in the washer and that’s all you’re going to wash … waste. But some people aren’t cognizant of that. They think, “Well, I need those jeans for tomorrow. That’s all I care about.”

Dr. Hamlin:
I’m just going to wash the dishes that are in the dishwasher and run it now even though it’s half full.

Jason:
Right, exactly. We offer ways through incentive programs that people can save for residential toilets and showerheads and faucet aerators for every application, washing machines.

Dr. Hamlin:
Where would people go to find out the range of incentives that are available here in Hays?

Jason:
haysusa.com is our website. If you go there, click on ‘water conservation.’ It’s on the right side of the screen. That’ll take you through the whole gamut. We’ve got some water saving tips: ways to save water outdoors; ways to save water in the bathroom; if you have a pool. Once again, it’s a quality of life thing.

Dr. Hamlin:
The issue of conservation and efficiency, it’s partly an ordinary mindfulness of what were using, how were using it, but it’s also partly a long-term recognition.

Jason:
Yeah, efficient technology. There’s efficiency built in by government mandate. By ’92, the EPA said we can’t have five gallon per flush toilets any more. Now I guarantee there’s still some out there, but the new ones can’t be that. So there is effective limits of conservation. You can’t conserve your way into growth. Now that’s where the R9 comes in. That will be our growth opportunity.

Dr. Hamlin:
What, I don’t know, two or three things could someone hearing our conversation think, “Ah, I could do that.” What could they do?

Jason:
First of all, being cognizant of water use. Number two, plant native plants. Plant stuff that’s been here, can survive here. [crosstalk 00:36:26] …

Dr. Hamlin:
Something that belongs here.

Jason:
Something that belongs here. Fescue is a popular landscaping grass in Hays. It is nonnative. It’s ill suited. We simply don’t have enough sustainable rainfall to keep it alive, to keep it lush, to keep it growing. Buffalo grass has been here for eons. It’s a native turf. It looks nice if it’s maintained. You can save not only on the water, you can save on fertilizing, you can save on mowing. It truly is the [inaudible 00:36:57] for native grass. You don’t really need to mow it. The more you take care of it, the worse it gets. People say it’s weedy. Well, you take care of it too much. Leave it alone and it won’t do anything. It’ll be just fine. I would save thirdly, efficient technology. You talk about good habits, native plants and efficient technology. Water saving technology’s come a long way. People think a toilet’s a toilet. Well, when you go down to a plumbing supply place and tell them a toilet’s a toilet, they’ve got a book of them this thick. Those can cut your water use down. The bathroom is the place for high saving potential without a doubt in conserving.

Dr. Hamlin:
What about someone who’s running a business? Because a lot of time when you’re running a business, you have to fulfill your contracts. You just got to do what you got to do. Where should they be looking first?

Jason:
I would say even if it’s just a self water audit, it would be a way of looking how you’re currently using water. If there’s ways that you could stop doing … Maybe instead of hosing the floor down, you broom it, or you find some other way to clean it, a wet broom or something else. There’s ways to get around the water waste. It certainly does … manufacturing processes do take a certain amount of water. It’s sometimes unavoidable, and it’s [inaudible 00:38:33] one of those … growth.

Dr. Hamlin:
What about our farmers? Anything they need to be thinking about changing?

Jason:
I have a pet peeve on the end guns on the irrigation pivots because that water’s spraying out there 20 feet. It’s not doing nothing. It’s not touching anything.

Dr. Hamlin:
Or just losing a lot.

Jason:
It’s losing it. But I’m a municipal guy not an ag guy. Those guys know …

Dr. Hamlin:
That makes sense.

Jason:
… much more about their fields than I do, so I’ll trust their expertise.

   ***PROGRAM BREAK***

 

Dr. Hamlin:
If someone really does step over the line and they become a bad water citizen, what happens? Who’s keeping track of that? Do we have water cops out there or what?

Jason:
Well, no.

Dr. Hamlin:
No.

Jason:
Well, kind of yes and no. The city does keep an eye on fluctuations in water use. If you have certain percentage fluctuation in your month-to-month water use … We recently made a change to our utility bill. I don’t know if you noticed.

Dr. Hamlin:
Well, my wife would. She pays them.

Jason:
There’s now a graphical representation, a quick look graph. You can see high months, low months. You see in comparison how you looked last year compared to this year. Sometimes that’s a good indicator that, “Hey, maybe I have a leak. My toilet’s leaking. Maybe I have an underground sprinkler system leak. Something could be going on.” Sometimes the clerk’s office will flag those people, and then provide a list. Then we’ll make contact with them and see if we can help them out.

Dr. Hamlin:
Would you be the person who goes and contacts them?

Jason:
Usually they’ll give them a phone call. Then usually they’ll pass that information on to me, and we’ll talk about [changing 00:43:40] habits. What kind of technology are they using? Are they water an acre of grass? Are they on a corner lot? Do they have a daycare facility with a lot of people in and out of the house all day? A lot of those could affect your daily water consumption.

Dr. Hamlin:
What happens if somebody just does not want to cooperate?

Jason:
That’s their right, I guess. Like I say, one of the biggest enforcers of the conservation tactic is that pricing strategy. You got to hit them where it hurts. Sometimes that’s in the pocketbooks. Sometimes that’s not. But that’s a pretty effective conservation [tactic 00:44:20].

Dr. Hamlin:
That’s why we’ve created this pricing structure and the public policy to incentivize people to cooperate even if they don’t want to on some level.

Jason:
I’ll tell you what, I think the message in Hays never falls on deaf ears, ever. I think everybody’s engaged about it. Everybody’s interested in it. It’s something that’s been in the forefront in Hays for a long time. I think people are interested in it. You can talk about convention centers or you can talk about a lot of other things that go on, your university, or things that happen around town, but when water comes up, people … especially people who remember ’92 when Hays was in a pretty tough spot before. People remember that time. It strikes a chord with them.

Dr. Hamlin:
For you, what’s the most satisfying part of what you do?

Jason:
We have an educational outreach program, like I said earlier, that Eber Phelps talked about. I think going out … We talked to every fourth grader in the district last year. We gave them a little backpack. We gave them some books and stuff. We had fun with it. That was a rewarding … When you do it with fourth graders, you get that nag factor. They’re going to tell on brother and sister. They’re going to tell their mom and dad, “Hey, get out of the shower.” We gave them a shower timer. You know what I mean? You got to get that nag factor from a kid that’s ten years old. That was pretty rewarding to … Once again, the water wiseness of how much they knew about the water cycle. It’s a testament to the teachers in the district and the Hays’ culture.

Dr. Hamlin:
So the message is out there …

Jason:
It’s out there.

Dr. Hamlin:
… meaning it seems to be deeply into the Hays’ culture.

Jason:
It does. I think it is. It’s something that we made hard to ignore whether it’s just you pound people over the head with it.

Dr. Hamlin:
What other message would you want to send to people?

Jason:
I think now we’re in spring, spring season’s here, I’ve seen sprinkler systems running around town in the rain and …

Dr. Hamlin:
Just automatic stuff that people just don’t pay attention to.

Jason:
Yeah. A lot of these people have their sprinkler systems set for the heat of the July on a 75-degree day, watering every day. You’re doing more harm than good. Deeply and infrequently is the message on watering.

Dr. Hamlin:
Deeply and infrequently.

Jason:
Yep, yep.

Dr. Hamlin:
Is it better at night?

Jason:
It’s better at night. Late night, early morning, before the sun comes up is usually the best time to get the most benefit than … If you water in the evening before it gets dark you run some fungus issues and some others issues with your lawn that you don’t want. Deeply, infrequently, that’s a tough message to get out there.

Dr. Hamlin:
We need people to be mindful, and when people become mindful, where can they go to find out more about what they could do?

Jason:
haysusa.com is our website. We have tips, tricks. We have other ways on stuff you can do to save water, incentive programs. They can always give me a call, come down and talk to me. I’d talk about it for as long as you need to. It’s an interesting topic to me.

Dr. Hamlin:
Did they put in a priority of, “Do these five things first and then …” Or is it just a range of best practices?

Jason:
It’s a range of best practices. I certainly think, once again, bathrooms and lawns are places people can save the most. That where you would focus first. Efficient technology, cognizant habits and smart landscaping tools.

Dr. Hamlin:
Five years from now, what could be different that’s better?

Jason:
In five years, I still think Hays will be the municipal efficiency leader in the state, no doubt, because of the groundwork that’s been set for many years. What five years brings? I don’t know. That’s a good question.

Dr. Hamlin:
Well, who knows where it will take us.

Jason:
Whether another water source will be developed, whether those gears will have got in full speed.

Dr. Hamlin:
It’s obvious we won’t be able to control larger things like weather patterns and what kind of stressors that creates, but we do have a culture that can respond to that and that is mindful of that.

Jason:
I hope so. That’s refreshing. When I came here, I knew … I started in 2000- … in the middle of this drought, I started this job. I knew it was going to be stressful. I think I underlaid it a little bit. I thought, “Well, you know, a lot of people there already know it all. It’ll be preaching a message they already know.” A lot of them already do, but we do have some incentive programs, like our ‘Cash for Grass.’ It’s the first one east of the Rockies, north of Texas. This is [crosstalk 00:49:27].

Dr. Hamlin:
So Hays is a good place to do what you do.

Jason:
Groundbreaking stuff.

Dr. Hamlin:
Well, I’ve enjoyed the conversation. I’m really thrilled and delighted that you were able to come and …

Jason:
I appreciate it.

Dr. Hamlin:
… hang out with me a little bit. I love the good news.

Jason:
Good.

Dr. Hamlin:
It sounds like so much better than what we’re often thinking.

Jason:
It’s certainly not doom and gloom. We need to be careful, but it’s certainly not doom and gloom.

Dr. Hamlin:
Okay. Well, thanks a lot.

Jason:
Thank you.

Dr. Hamlin:
Appreciate you coming out.

Jason:
Yep, thank you.

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