BERN, Kan. -- During the last week of July, the majority of households in the little community of Bern, Kan., (pop. 204) traded in their washing machines for a new technologically advanced, front-loading Maytag Neptune washer. According to Maytag, the Maytag Neptune washer can clean and care for clothes better and save up to 40 percent of the water and 65 percent of the energy used when doing laundry.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected this northeast Kansas community with a history of water shortage problems as part of the DOE's Energy Star Appliance program. The objective of this nationwide effort is to educate consumers about appliances that can help save water and energy and accelerate acceptance of these technologies.
In the early 80s, Bern residents and the rural water district started to realize that Bern's water supply was not only diminishing, but also contained high levels of iron and manganese. Then in 1988, northeast Kansas suffered severe drought conditions, forcing Bern residents to haul water from other locations or use water from farm ponds to support their family and livestock operations, according to town officials. They had reached a critical point and action was imperative.
To address these issues, Bern entered into an agreement with Nebraska to build two new wells, a booster station, a treatment plant, and a five-mile pipeline across state lines to bring water into the community. As a result, Bern residents are currently paying increased water rates, and recently, the water quality from one of the wells has come into question.
"With a water shortage history like Bern's, it was a perfect match for the DOE's Washer Study program," said Elmer Ronnebaum, general manager of the Kansas Rural Water Association and the one who placed Bern in the running for the project. "Making Bern residents aware of appliances and other efforts that help conserve our natural resources is significantly less expensive than drilling new holes in search of water."
The five-month town conversion began in June, with the DOE monitoring how much water Bern household washers use to do laundry. In late July, existing washers were replaced with Maytag Neptune washers in the study by the DOE and Maytag to track water. The agency and the company believe there will be dramatic energy and water savings.
According to the American Water Works Association, washing machines are one of the top three indoor water-users in the home, along with showers and toilets. High-efficiency washers are horizontal-axis washers that provide a substantial reduction in energy and water usage -- and also provide improved cleaning of tough stains. The high-efficiency Maytag Neptune washer, which was designed and built specifically for North American Consumers, has these benefits -- along with the largest capacity and tub access of any washer on the market, according to the company.
Return to the U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water News Homepage