WELLINGTON, Kan. (KSNW) — Just weeks before Memorial Day, Wellington City Council voted to delay the opening of the Wellington Family Aquatic Center.

Wellington’s city manager said the aquatic center’s 24-year-old pool has lost more and more water over the past few summers. Usually, due to evaporation, the 400,000-gallon pool should only lose 5,000 gallons of water a week. But, in 2022, the pool was losing 175,000 gallons a week.

“At the last council meeting, a motion was made to hold off or not open the pool until we have some clarity — what our losses will be and if we’ve addressed the major source of loss,” Jeff Porter, Wellington city manager, said.

Porter says the City uses between 1.6 million and 1.8 million gallons of water a day during the peak of summer. With sinking water levels at Wellington Lake causing the City to go into a water watch, he said officials are concerned the leaking aquatic center pool will make matters worse.

“Our lake level, which is tied to our, our water system, we’re about 50 inches low,” he said. “The concern is we’re not far off from conservation measures because it’s been a pretty dry spring.”

“We can’t ignore if it comes to that,” Cody White, Wellington Recreation Commission superintendent, said.

He says the pool brought in more than 12,000 visitors last summer, an important economic driver for the small community.

“We have 22 new lifeguards this year, which is the highest number we’ve ever had, and you couple that with returning guards, management staff, cashiers … it could be anywhere from 50-60 people that it could ultimately affect,” White said.

Although he believes the pool can open on Memorial Day weekend, he said the Wellington City Council will ultimately decide if that’s the case.

“If we have to delay things by a few days, it’s nothing new,” White said. “From the past couple years, weather definitely has not been on our side.”

“We’re cognizant that we need to balance both the needs of the community when it comes to water but also providing, you know, an important recreation asset and, you know, competitive asset for the swim team and things like that”, Porter said.

White says there have been attempts to repair the pool. However, he said the only way to determine if the repairs worked is to fill the pool. So, staff will fill it, monitor the water levels over the next few days, and then present their findings to the City Council on May 16.

City staff is also in touch with the company that came in last fall to find the leak and an additional engineering firm to find ways to keep the pool open this summer.