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June 26 Green Biz Wichita Water Conference

On June 26, 2013, Green Biz Wichita hosted a water conference at the Ambassador Hotel. Ben Nelson from the City of Wichita began by explaining the current situation and how the city has responded to the drought. On June 4, 2013 the City of Wichita switched the amount of water coming from the Equus Beds and Cheney Reservoir. Prior to June 4, 60% of Wichita water was being drawn from Cheney Reservoir and 40% came from the Equus Beds. By switching those percentages, Wichita was able to extend its water supply by 22 months. In February of 2013, Cheney Reservoir was only 58% full. By June 26 it had risen to 73% full. When we are not experiencing a drought, the Reservoir is 100% full. In addition to switching the amount of water drawn from each source, the City will sink its wells deeper into the Equus Beds in order to take full advantage of water rights there. There will also be some modifications made to the Water Treatment Plant.

After the May 30, 2013 rain in Wichita, the City did not require such drastic water conservation measures as had previously been proposed. For this year, water use is down 13.5% from last year - partly due to rain, conservation, and cooler weather. Residents are still encouraged to voluntarily conserve water. The City is offering a water conservation rebate program to help fund installation of low-flow toilets, high-efficiency dishwashers and washing machines, rain barrels, and irrigation controllers. Wichita has also released a website called Save Wichita Water. The slogan for the website is "Every Drop Makes an Impact."

In the second part of the water presentation, Kay Drinnen spoke about conservation. A side benefit of water conservation is that it not only reduces water bills, but also lowers energy costs and makes a business more economically resilient. According to Drinnen, many businesses can save up to 63% in water use by updating plumbing fixtures and repairing leaks.

Businesses should do a water audit to discover what their current water use patterns are. A water audit includes looking at: historical water usage, plumbing plans, domestic water use, water used in commercial/industrial processes, water used in cooling and heating, irrigation, and energy use. Can any parts of the business that use large amounts of water be replaced? retrofit? Can a process be altered so that it will use less water? The next steps are to develop a timeline for changes and to educate employees about conservation. Each business will have to tackle water conservation in a unique way based on their particular usage patterns. There are some inspiring case studies available from the Southwest Florida Water Management District site.

As you move forward and take steps to conserve water, remember, "Every Drop Makes an Impact!"