September 18, 2013

County limits flushing at juvenile detention facility

Restroom rationing has resurfaced for Sedgwick County inmates, this time in the spirit of water conservation.

Restroom rationing has resurfaced for Sedgwick County inmates, this time in the spirit of water conservation.

Beginning in June, inmates at the Sedgwick County Jail were allotted one roll of toilet paper a week. Inmates at the county’s juvenile detention facility are limited to three flushes an hour.

That latter fact was a highlight of a presentation Tuesday shared with county leaders about a water-use audit.

Rains have replenished Cheney Reservoir, the source of Wichita’s water, but the county think it makes sense to reduce its future water use.

In May, the city estimated that the reservoir would be dry by August 2015. In response, Sedgwick County Manager William Buchanan ordered an audit of water usage at all county-owned buildings. The county spent $340,493 last year on water.

“It’s clear that we have an issue that needs to be dealt with if we’re going to grow as a community and that’s what do we do with our water resources? In some cases, we’re a pretty big user. We were in pretty bad shape in May as a community and had we not gotten enormous rains, I would have expected some drastic, dramatic action by the city,” Buchanan said.

The audit, conducted between June 25 and July 30, found that 55 percent of the county’s water usage occurred at the jail. Jo Oliver, environmental project manager, shared results of the study with commissioners and county department leaders at their regular weekly meeting Tuesday.

The courthouse made up 10 percent of water usage and the work-release center and the juvenile detention facility 4 percent each. The adult detention residential facility accounted for 3 percent of the county’s usage.

Inmates at the juvenile detention facility can flush their toilets only three times an hour, Oliver said. A sensor limits the amount of flushing. The sensors are not in place at the jail. There is a manual override for the toilet sensors in case of illness.

One recommendation that came out of the audit is that the county consider installing plumbing controls at the jail. At the juvenile detention facility, in addition to limits to flushing, sinks are limited to 10 seconds of water flow per push. Sinks run for 30 seconds per push at the jail.

The audit also recommends:

• That the county replace, instead of fix, old fixtures with low-flow/high efficiency models when repairs are needed
• Upgrading to high-efficiency washing machines when machines need replaced
• Developing countywide standards for washing vehicles, landscaping and lawn maintenance.

“We need to investigative how to institute some of these recommendations,” Buchanan said. “I’m fascinated about how we might approach the adult detention facility. It’s really a small city. There’s 1,500 people there every day. It’s a small community.”

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