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Study Is More Than a Wash

Conservation: A trip to Washington is the reward after a test of a water-saving appliance.

September 18, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — They spent four months doing 20,000 loads of laundry, and this week, an entire Kansas town earned a free trip to the nation's capital.

Tiny Bern, Kan., was the testing ground for a new washing machine designed to save water and energy. Conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy and Maytag, the study required residents to weigh each load before and after it was washed. Maytag threw in the machines for free.

"In a rural community, I think you just naturally tend to cut back," said Mavis Heiniger, who owns the town grocery store with her husband, Mark.

Maytag flew Heiniger and other Bern residents, about 270 in all, to Washington for a two-day visit where they received special recognition by the U.S. Department of Energy and a small plaque commending the town for joining the study and for leading in water conservation efforts.

Water problems in the northeast Kansas town date to a drought in 1860. Officials in recent years have discouraged too much use by tripling water rates and imposing strict rules, such as requiring pond water for livestock.

They even brought in experts to explore for more water, prompting legal wrangling with the state of Nebraska and eventually resulting in a new well across state lines.

Elmer Ronnenbaum, general manager of the Kansas Rural Water Assn., nominated the town and the local water district to conduct the study.

Maytag provided scales and easy-to-read monitors. In the 103 households that joined the study, residents said the work amounted to a few extra seconds each time.

The study demonstrated that the Maytag Neptune washer used 40% less water and 60% less energy.

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