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Rain barrels, toilets top list of rebated items for city’s $1 million fund

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, July 31, 2013, at 7:52 a.m.
  • Updated Saturday, August 3, 2013, at 5:03 p.m.

Wichita residents haven’t worn a path to take advantage of the city’s offer to give rebates to those who buy water-saving products.

Through midafternoon Wednesday, 487 residents had tapped into the $1 million fund to receive rebates totaling $60,266 for purchasing such items as low-flow toilets and rain barrels, city officials said.

Meanwhile, Derby on Wednesday became Wichita’s fifth wholesale water customer to take advantage of a rebate allowance to start its own program. Out of that same $1 million fund, Wichita has provided $80,200 in allowances to the five communities.

In early June, as city officials sought ways to curb water use because of an ongoing drought, the City Council approved the money for the rebates. That program – open only to the city’s residential water customers and available through Dec. 31 – took effect July 1.

“We wanted to make the pot of money big enough that anyone willing to participate can,” said Ben Nelson, strategy manager for public works and utilities. “We intentionally set it high.

“It was a total shot in the dark as to how many would want a rebate.”

The $1 million comes from water utility income and does not affect rates, Nelson said. Unused money from the rebate fund would go back to helping finance capital improvements for water infrastructure, he said.

The pot’s balance is $859,534.

This is the first time the city has used rebates to encourage its water customers to conserve water, although other communities across the country have used the method for years.

Wichita is offering rebates of up to $75 for rain barrels and $100 for each of the other four qualified items: toilets, dishwashers, clothes washers and irrigation controllers.

One household can claim up to five rebates. A total of 669 rebates have been claimed by the 487 customers. The average amount of each rebate has been $90.

Rebates have been issued for 208 rain barrels. Toilets are close behind at 198, followed by 142 washing machines and 119 dishwashers. Only two rebates have been issued for Smart irrigation sensors.

Irrigation controls’ low number didn’t surprise Nelson. This has been one of the wettest Julys in the city’s history. And, he said, the sensors can be complex to operate.

“People are buying things that make sense,” he said.

Rebates are applied as credit to residents’ water bills.

Although Wichita’s rainfall in July was almost 4 1/2 inches above normal, city officials emphasize that residents still need to conserve water. The city remains in a severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Requirements for an item to qualify for a rebate and the application to obtain a rebate can be found at www.savewichitawater.com. The site also lists the makes and models of products that qualify, including 1,800 different kinds of toilets.

For more information, e-mail WaterRebate@wichita.gov or call 316-268-8351.

All 11 communities or rural water districts that buy water wholesale from Wichita were allotted money from the $1 million fund to set up rebate plans. The amount is based on the percentage of water each entity buys out of Wichita’s total water sales, said Alan King, the city’s director of public works and utilities.

“If we’re trying to reduce water use,” King said, “we thought we should extend that to our wholesale customers, too, so they can have programs. They can add incentives of their own, but at least they get that money from us.”

In Derby’s case, the city’s water purchase is 3.92 percent of Wichita’s sales, so it received $39,200. The other four communities that have taken advantage of the offer so far: Bel Aire, $6,000; Kechi, $3,000; Rose Hill, $5,000; and Valley Center, $10,000.

The other six communities that buy water wholesale from Wichita have until Aug. 15 to begin participating, city officials said.

Each community may devise its own rebate plan. Unlike Wichita, Derby limited its qualifying items to three that would control outdoor water use.

Derby’s qualifying devices and rebate amounts:

• High-efficiency sprinkler nozzles, $75. Must replace at least 15 nozzles.

• Smart irrigation controller, $100.

• Rain barrels, up to $75. Must be purchased barrel and be at least 50 gallons.

Specific details on the items that qualify for a rebate can be found at www.derbyweb.com.

The Derby rebate is for devices purchased between May 1 and Dec. 15, and each customer is allowed up to three rebates. Receipts must be presented with the rebate application, which is available at the city’s website or at City Hall, 611 Mulberry Road. For more information, call 316-788-1424 or send an e-mail to waterconservation@derbyweb.com.

The devices also must be installed, according to Derby officials. The city will require a photo of the installed rain barrels. Random inspections will be conducted to verify that rebated sprinkler nozzles and irrigation controllers have been installed.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

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