June 19, 2013

Wichita’s fountains are starting to flow again

Wichita’s fountains are coming back to life after being off all spring because of the drought.

Wichita’s fountains are coming back to life after being off all spring because of the drought.

The city’s five interactive fountains and splash pads – a favorite of children – were turned on Wednesday morning. The 12 decorative fountains will start being turned on Thursday, and all should be flowing by July 4, said Chase Fosse, assistant to the city manager.

The Waltzing Waters fountain at downtown’s WaterWalk had its debut last weekend, but its times have been adjusted.

Waltzing Waters will have a 10-minute show starting at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through June 30. From July through the end of August, the Sunday shows will be eliminated.

“The idea was to take Sunday out of service during the hottest part of the year when evaporation is the most intense,” Fosse said.

Starting in September and continuing until the season is scheduled to end Oct. 27, the Waltzing Waters will return to having shows Friday through Sunday.

Last weekend, the fountain had its 10-minute shows at noon and 8 p.m.

“Noon was way too early for the lights to show,” Fosse said. “And 8 p.m. was too early for the complete experience. The 7:30 time is a good time for families, even though the lights won’t be as spectacular. By 9:30, you’ll get the full effect.”

Residents haven’t seen much of the $3.5 million investment, including $1.6 million to buy the fountains in 2009.

The fountains, which incorporate 150-foot-high streams of water synchronized to lights and music, were in storage while the WaterWalk master plan underwent changes. They were unveiled last October and operated until shutting down for the winter, except for a brief interruption because of mechanical problems.

Their current schedule is significantly shorter than original plans, which called for three 20-minute shows seven days a week from May through December.

The interactive fountains will be on 10 percent less than in the past. Their new hours will be from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., with the exception of the Old Town fountain, which will be on two hours later until 9:30 p.m.

Motion sensors at $1,000 each will be installed on the interactive fountains later this summer, Fosse said.

The decorative fountains will be turned off Oct. 27, unless there is a hard freeze earlier, he added. The interactive fountains will be shut down as usual Aug. 31, Fosse said.

The reductions in fountain times were made as part of the city’s internal water conservation that is expected to save 42.5 million gallons annually. About 38 million of those savings are expected to come from allowing the grass on city-owned land – except athletic fields and golf courses – to go dormant and to not cut the grass as short.

Water is recycled through the fountains, but some is lost through evaporation and blowing wind, Fosse said.

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