June 14 2021 08:44 AM

SNWA has identified about 5,000 acres of unused turf in the Las Vegas Valley.

On June 5, Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada signed into law legislation supported by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, local municipalities and businesses leaders that will help advance Southern Nevada’s water conservation goals and water efficiency efforts.

Assembly Bill 356 prohibits the use of Colorado River water delivered by SNWA member agencies from being used to irrigate non-functional grass by 2027. This requires the replacement of non-functional grass (decorative grass in streetscapes, medians, parking lots and other areas where it is used for aesthetics and not recreational purposes) by Dec. 31, 2026.

“We’re extremely appreciative of Gov. Sisolak and the Nevada Legislature for approving this measure, which will enable the community to expand on its commitment to conserving water in the face of ongoing drought conditions and climate change,” says John Entsminger, SNWA general manager.

The SNWA has identified about 5,000 acres of unused, non-functional turf in the Las Vegas Valley. The new law does not apply to grass at single-family homes, where 1,000 acres of non-functional grass remain, nor recreational grass found at schools and parks throughout the community.

“By upgrading unused grass to water-smart landscaping, we can save more than 9.5 billion gallons of water annually, which represents about 10% of our total annual water supply from the Colorado River at Lake Mead,” says Entsminger.

By comparison, resort hotels along the Las Vegas Strip and throughout Southern Nevada collectively consume about 4% of the community’s water supply.

To implement and coordinate the required turf replacements, the SNWA board of directors will appoint a nine-member advisory committee, comprised of representatives from the business community; owners of office parks, industrial or commercial properties; community associations; multi-family housing; environmental organizations; and golf industry.

Entsminger says businesses and community associations should take advantage of the SNWA’s Water Smart Landscapes Rebate program to convert unused grass to water-smart landscaping. WSL provides a cash incentive of $3 per square foot of turf removed. Since its launch in 2000, businesses and residents have replaced about 198 million square feet of grass with drip-irrigated landscaping.

“Our research has found more than 70% of homeowners support their HOA’s efforts to replace grass with drip-irrigated landscaping,” Entsminger says. “Residential customers have been doing their part to replace grass through the Water Smart Landscapes program, and this legislation will help the rest of the community to do the same.”

Entsminger said the legislation was needed to help spur the community into additional action to reduce non-functional grass landscapes and conserve water resources.

“Replacing non-functional turf from Southern Nevada will allow for more sustainable and efficient use of resources, build resiliency to climate change, and help ensure the community’s current and future water needs continue to be met,” Entsminger says.

WSL is one of many SNWA incentive programs and ordinances geared to encouraging water conservation throughout the community. These include mandatory seasonal watering schedules and fines levied against property owners who waste water.