This is part three of a four part series exploring drought conditions in the Ellis county area. Part one explores dry conditions, part two explored Hays Aquatic Park, part three explores the fountains and Big Creek effecting Ellis county , part four will be a video interview with key people on how they are dealing with the drought.
With warmer weather comes the beautification of lawns with landscapes and on the Fort Hays State University campus, this includes filling and running the fountains in front of Sheridan, Tomanek, and Picken Halls, but even with the water crisis in Hays, FHSU will keep with the regular maintenance.
“Technically even though Fort Hays State is part of the city, the source of our water at the university is from wells that the university owns. And we are not legally required to honor those watering hours but we decided they should be honored, being good citizens,” said Kent Steward, university relations director.
The reason for FHSU’s aqua autonomy is because the water source used on campus is not classified as a domestic well, but as a state authorized water right to that well, according to Toby Dougherty, Hays city manager. There are three in Hays; Smokey Hill Country Club, Hays High, and Fort Hays. Domestic wells are to abide by the city’s water restriction guidelines as of April of this year.
The fountains on campus total about 16,000 gallons of water and equal a fraction of what is used to water campus lawns, potentially increasing as the new Center for Media Studies is completed and water flow is pushed into the creek it is built upon.
Big Creek will also need to receive some intervention to keep water from being stagnant. Channels will be created to allow the movement of water within when Hays receives sufficient rain to fill it. The channel construction also contributes to the potential of water running under the new building. Hays and FHSU are in talks to use the the city’s effluent water to push through Big Creek. Along with aesthetics, this venture has the potential to recharge the creek’s aquifers.
“Fort Hays has been in contact with us about the possibility of dumping some of that effluent water into Big Creek and letting it migrate back down through there,” Dougherty said. “What we don’t utilize we dump into Big Creek anyways. One of the reasons we were interested in the project is because we think we could benefit from aqua recharge.”
This plan, however, provides no guarantees as little is known as to how much water could seep into the aquifers for replenishment. The only way to know is to test the system, and Hays will find out soon.
“We went through KDHE and they have given us permission to do a test run this Fall,” Dougherty said.