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August 11, 2022

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New conference to showcase water conservation technology

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In much the same way that rooftop solar panels lower energy costs for homeowners and provide clean, renewable energy to power grids, backyard wetlands could be a viable wastewater treatment option in the near future.

The mini-marshes temporarily store, filter and clean runoff water from roofs and lawns and process sewage from the home on site. They provide habitat for many creatures, lower water consumption and reduce power demand from municipal treatment facilities, said M.L. Robinson, a professor of water conservation at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension in Silverado.

Unlike a septic tank, a typical constructed wetland is not an enclosure but a 4-foot deep hole with an impervious liner to prevent leakage; and intake and output lines, possibly with an aeration system to add oxygen that stimulates breakdown of waste material.

It’s filled in so the process takes place entirely underground. The only smell is the aroma from the flowers and shrubs that benefit from the nutrient-rich soil underneath.

Although not potable, the naturally treated water could be used to water lawns and landscapes or continue back into the larger system for additional treatment at a municipal plant and returned to Lake Mead.

Constructed wetlands also could be used in parking lots to collect storm water runoff. The collected and cleaned water could be used to water additional landscaping in shopping centers, Robinson said.

“If you treat on site, you’re at least doubling the use of your water,” he said. “You’re putting fewer chemicals into the environment, depending on what you’re doing with chlorine.”

Robinson will be presenting the pioneering technology on constructed wetlands Oct. 9 at the WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition.

Expected to be the largest conference of its kind in the world, WaterSmart has attracted international water conservation experts, inventors, businesses and world leaders to share the latest water-efficiency technology.

“I felt there was a need for an interdisciplinary conference that included folks from the private sector that want to know more about what’s going on and want the opportunities are and how to implement some of these things. Ultimately, they’re the ones that really effect water efficiency not the (government) agencies,” said Doug Bennett, conservation manager for the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the man responsible for bringing the participating organizations and businesses together. “The great thing about it is all this expertise is coming to our hometown.”

WaterSmart Innovations will be held Oct. 8-10 at the South Point, 9777 Las Vegas Blvd.

As the host city for the inaugural conference, Las Vegas will showcase some of its accomplishments in water conservation and technology such as the Springs Preserve, Hoover Dam and Red Rock National Conservation Area.

The response for the convention exceeded expectations, Bennett said. More than 1,000 people have signed up to attend; 160 speakers were chosen among hundreds more who submitted a project or research and there is a waiting list of about 30 exhibitors who didn’t fit in the 155 available spaces.

The conference also could attract new jobs and businesses to Southern Nevada in sustainability industries such as solar power and water efficiency, Bennett said.

“These are going to be the emerging industries and growth industries of the future and if we get on board, these might be opportunities for Las Vegas to be a global leader,” he said.

The conference has drawn experts from every inhabited continent. To encourage locals to attend, Southern Nevada residents can receive a single exhibit entry pass by showing a business card.

Prince Feisal Ibn Al-Hussein of Jordan, who heads up water resource management and alternative water resources in his homeland, will be the keynote opening session speaker.

The SNWA has committed to organizing the conference next year in Las Vegas and Bennett said he hopes it would become an annual event.

“It’s created a lot of really valuable relationships. We obviously know a lot more people. We’ve learned about a lot of new products we didn’t know existed,” he said. “Those are dividends that are going to be paid off to the people of Southern Nevada in terms of water efficiency know how.”

Jeff Pope can be reached at 990-2688 or [email protected].

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