By NICK BUDD
At Thursday’s Hays City Commission work session, commissioner’s received a recommendation from staff to move the city from a stage two water warning to a stage one water watch.
According to Director of Utilities Bernie Kitten, the Smoky Hill River recently received a substantial amount of rainfall, which caused the river to flow near Schoenchen for the first time in three years. The river provides water to the Smoky Hill well field, one of the main well fields for the city of Hays.
“That rain is going to help the river flow quite a bit longer. It really helped us,” Kitten said.
City Manager Toby Dougherty also mentioned that the Smoky Hill well field is the “main catalyst” for the preemptive move to a Water Warning that the city made this year. He said that, according to predictions made in May, the Smoky Hill wellfields were within a day of hitting warning status, but the rainfalls helped with the recharge significantly.
“The drought probably can’t get any worse than what we’ve had the past two summers, so we have a lot of confidence according to these predictions,” Kitten said.
The rainfall didn’t change the pumping wells in the city, but they do remain above a watch level. The Big Creek wells, which are located closer to the center of Hays, haven’t really changed that much either because they receive water directly from rainfall that goes through the city’s water depository’s. Kitten said that they require several small rainfalls in order to recharge.
“We have a long way to go with the Big Creek well field,” Dougherty said. “While the Big Creek wells are no longer as close to water watch as they were before, they still remain in the low end of normal operation, and it will take them a lot longer to recover than the Smoky Hill well fields.”
The current drought forecast released by the National Weather Service also says that the Hays area is “at a line” of possibly going out of the current drought.
Due to these factors, Kitten said staff does believe that the water warning can be removed. Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the move at next week’s regular meeting.