Las Vegas Sun

August 24, 2019

Currently: 99° — Complete forecast

With spring approaching, don’t forget about water conservation

Lake Mead Water Levels

L.E. Baskow

A current Lake Mead water level as seen from the Lake Mead Marina with consideration of the various water markets being tried throughout the West on Wednesday, June 7, 2017.

Water conservation in the Las Vegas Valley is imperative as the city continues to grow. The resources provided by the Colorado River are stretched thin, as the river is responsible for supplying the majority of the water to Southern Nevada, six other states—California, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado—and Mexico. Combine these existing allotments with drought conditions that have reduced the river’s average flows by 30 percent annually, and it’s clear that Las Vegas must be proactive in its conservation efforts.

Watering schedules

When the seasons change, so does your watering schedule.

• March through April: Three designated watering days (check for your property’s specific days of the week)

• May through August: Watering outdoors is permitted Monday-Saturday before 11 a.m and after 7 p.m.

• September through October Three designated watering days (check for your property’s specific days of the week)

• November through February: Residents are assigned one single day per week for outdoor watering (check for your property’s specific day of the week)

■ In addition to these frequencies, properties are also assigned specific days of the week during which they can irrigate. To find your assigned days, visit tinyurl.com/y92pp22x.

■ Remember! If you don’t adhere to these restrictions, you can expect a fine.

The Bureau of Reclamation anticipates that the Colorado River and Lake Mead will be in shortage conditions as early as next year, and as a result, allocations will be cut. Nevada is allocated 300,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water per year, but with the anticipated 2020 cutbacks, the amount could decrease to 270,000.

Fortunately, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has had strategic initiatives in place since 2002 to keep up with the area’s rapidly growing population.

“As long as we keep conserving, we are well-positioned to manage the shortage conditions going forward,” said Bronson Mack of SNWA. “Since 2002, Southern Nevada has reduced water consumption from Lake Mead by 26 percent, even though the area’s population increased by more than 650,000 people.”

In 2017, Southern Nevada used only 243,000 of its 300,000 acre-feet water allotment. The remaining amount gets stored for future use. To date, this “banked water” supply has accumulated to 1.8 million acre-feet—about eight years of water reserves, so while a cushion is in place, conservation must continue.

Recycling and restrictions bolster conservation efforts

Suffering from drought conditions for years has propelled Nevada to its current position as one of the nation’s leaders in recycling water from indoor use. Almost 100 percent of the community’s indoor-use water is reclaimed, treated and returned back to Lake Mead. This recycled water doesn’t count toward Nevada’s annual Colorado River allocation. Water used outdoors is a different story, however. Washing cars, filling pools, watering lawns or anything similar is what quickly depletes the supply; thus, conservation efforts by the SNWA and other agencies, including the Las Vegas Valley Water District [LVVWD], focus on outdoor water usage.

Landscape development codes, new watering restrictions and a tiered watering payment system have helped Southern Nevada cut back on excess water use. Some of these regulations include prohibiting grass installation in the front yards of new residential and commercial properties, limiting grass installation to 50 percent or less of landscaped area in backyards, and watering schedules.

Those who don’t adhere to their watering schedule are issued hefty fines, and delinquency may ultimately result in termination of service. Water waste fees vary depending on meter size, the account’s history of violations and the lake’s drought stage, but this past year alone, the water district issued more than $50,000 in fines.

As a result of the tiered conservation pricing implemented by SNWA, residents who use more than their fair share of water are also subject to more expensive water bills. Though rates vary across SNWA’s member agencies, this tiered pricing structure ensures residents who use less water will pay a lower cost-per-gallon. For example, those in the district’s lowest pricing tier pay $1.23 per thousand gallons of water for the first 5,000 gallons used and $2.20 per thousand gallons for the next 5,000. Those in the highest pricing tier pay $4.86 per thousand gallons for use above 20,000 gallons. These prices can add up quickly for the Valley’s biggest water users, making them an effective deterrent to water waste.

Remove your grass and earn some cash

SNWA rebate programs have created a win-win situation for community members and conservation efforts. Not only do these programs save millions of gallons of water per year, they also save community members thousands of dollars. Since SNWA’s inception of the Water Smart Landscape program, which rewards residents with $3 per square foot of turf removed from their yards, 185 million square feet of grass has been removed from the community and replaced with more desert-friendly alternatives.

The Pool Cover Rebate program reimburses residents for pool covers as a way to prevent evaporation and subsequent water waste during the summer months. Southern Nevada residents can also receive rebates for replacing their existing irrigation clocks with more efficient ones and for installing rain sensors that interrupt irrigation during and after significant rainfall. To date, 40,000 pool covers have been purchased through the program—saving more than 3.5 billion gallons of water—and 2,300 residents have received rebates for replacing their existing irrigation systems.

To promote indoor water conservation, SNWA also offers rebates and incentives for products such as high-efficiency washing machines, low-flow shower heads and other water-smart fixtures.

Rules, regulations and rebates are helpful for the state’s water conservation efforts, but securing a water-smart future for Las Vegas lies largely in residents’ hands. By following time-of-day and day-of-week watering restrictions, installing water-efficient fixtures, replacing grass with drought-resistant landscaping and reporting water waste throughout the Valley, Las Vegas will continue to thrive.

To learn about mandatory watering schedules and water waste fees, to find a list of desert-friendly plants, to report water waste or for any other information, visit the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s website at snwa.com or call the 24-hour Conservation Helpline at 702-258-7283.