Wichita has paid 20 percent of allotted $1 million in water-conservation rebates

Wichitans opted for new toilets during the city’s summer water conservation rebate program.

According to city figures, toilets were the most popular rebate target, making up a third — or 713 — of the items rebated. Next came rain barrels and clothes washers.

The city has paid out $201,796 in rebates for water-conserving appliances, a program announced earlier this year as water levels in Cheney Reservoir — a primary source of the city’s water — fell to dangerous levels in the drought.

That’s a little more than 20 percent of the $1 million the city allotted, said Ben Nelson, strategic services manager for the city’s public works department.

Even though the crisis has abated, with Cheney levels high enough for the city’s water department to resume normal withdrawal operations there, the drive to get Wichitans to conserve water will continue, city officials said Monday. The rebate program continues until the end of the year.

Nelson said the program could potentially be continued next year, with the approval of a city council that last week was intent on continuing conservation programs.

“Our normal conservation activities will continue through the end of the year,” Nelson said. “We initiated a more high-profile campaign during this year’s irrigation season, in order to raise awareness of the drought.”

The high-profile campaign ended in September, as did the city’s unspecified bills for radio, electronic billboards and online ads.

Nelson said conservation tips will continue to be available on the city’s website and through the water conservation office at 316-350-3387.

City officials unveiled information about the water crisis during a late February council workshop. Their forecasts that Cheney would cease contributing city water in the summer of 2015 produced a scramble to implement conservation efforts and find a new source of water.

Initially, more water was withdrawn from the Equus Beds and talks began with El Dorado officials about water from the city’s reservoir. But those talks have advanced more slowly, and no agreement has been reached, since August rains essentially ended the drought.

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