Turf Envy

Now Is The Best Time to Learn About SNWA

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Written by Cebrina Porter

Southern Nevada is home to 2.2 million residents in cities such as Las Vegas, Boulder City, and Henderson. These areas heavily rely on the Colorado River for approximately 90 percent of their water supply. Because of the excessive use of water outdoors, these neighborhoods waste billions of gallons of water annually. Excessive use can be anything from overwatering your landscape to water accidentally spraying or flowing off of your property. 

Additionally, climate change-induced droughts negatively impact the river as a consequence of warmer temperatures increasing evaporation. Due to the reasons above, the water levels are depleting in the Colorado River and the body of water it feeds into, Lake Mead.

As of July 2022, the water level of Lake Mead is at an all-time low of 1040.49 feet above sea level. The last time the lake was full was around the year 2000.  Since then, the level of the lake has been decreasing. This is concerning because areas that rely on the supply from the river have been experiencing water shortages.

Can Anyone Help?

One organization that has made great efforts to help preserve the water and reduce its unnecessary use is the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA). In 1991, Big Bend Water District, Boulder City, Clark County Water Reclamation, Henderson, Las Vegas, Las Vegas Valley Water District, and North Las Vegas agencies came together to form the corporation. The mission of the Water Authority is to manage the water resources in the Southern Nevada region, tackle concerns, and ensure that there are sustainable ways to guarantee its future availability.

What Has The SNWA Done?

For the past twenty years, the Water Authority has initiated many aggressive projects to resolve the issues regarding the lack of water in Southern Nevada. Below is just a preview of some of their efforts.

Prioritize Outdoor Conservation Programs

Since indoor water is recycled back into Lake Mead, the SNWA has prioritized outdoor water conservation efforts. Most of the Southern Nevada water supply is used for landscaping upkeep. Using water this way is often referred to as consumptive use, as it evaporates and cannot be treated and reused. 

To control the use of water resources, the SNWA has developed programs such as seasonal water restrictions and the prohibition of installing new grass. The seasonal water restriction assigns days and times of the week where irrigation is allowed, while the latter disallows new residential and commercial developments from laying out grass. These efforts will aid in saving at least 27,000 acre-feet of water.

Maintain Access to Primary Water Supply

The SNWA’s third water intake was a challenging project that completed construction in 2015. The framework includes a long tunnel boring machine attached to a shaft routed 600 feet deep and 3 miles wide underneath Lake Mead. It is connected to the suspended intake structure and allows water from the bottom of the lake to funnel through tunnels and pumping stations to reach water treatment facilities.

Complimenting the third water intake is the low lake level pumping station. It has the power and capability to draw water from Lake Mead’s center. This project included building an access shaft that measures 26 feet in diameter and is over 500 feet deep. A forebay, used as the source to operate equipment with water, was also dug at 12,500 square-feet underground to house the pumping units. The low lake level pumping station became active in April 2022.

Together, these projects will allow the community to carry on with water accessibility as the level of Lake Mead continues to decline below 900 feet.

Water Smart Landscapes Rebate

The Water Smart Landscapes rebate program provides financial incentives to residential and commercial owners who replace grass with water-efficient, desert landscaping. Doing so will help minimize the wasteful use of water. 

If all program conditions are met and approved by an SNWA representative, customers can receive $3 per square foot for the first 10,000 square feet of grass converted. It is also possible to receive $1.50 per square foot once the initial measurement is exceeded. Find more details to apply for the rebate on the SNWA website.

With cooperation and conversions, this effort is projected to lead to water conservation of 825,000 gallons annually.

Flexible Portfolio

To meet the short and long-term water requirements of South Nevada, the Water Authority keeps a flexible portfolio of resources. The portfolio aids in assessing public water resources and determining when and how they should be used or enhanced. The flexibility allows for easy acclimation when the supply and demand change.

The flexible portfolio is divided into three categories: permanent, temporary, and future resources. The permanent resources are methods that can be used for all Colorado River operation conditions. These strategies allow water to be supplied regardless of the shortage and include the Colorado River and return-flow credits, Intentionally Created Surplus, Las Vegas Valley groundwater rights, and water reuse plans. 

The temporary resources are techniques that can solve gaps between supply and demand while future approaches are being developed. These include Southern Nevada, California, and Arizona Water Banks and the Intentionally Created Surplus efforts.

Lastly, the future resources incorporate approaches that are expected to be available during the Water Authority’s 50-year plan. Colorado River transfers and exchanges, Garnet and Hidden Valley groundwater, and Tikaboo and Three Lakes Valley groundwater projects make up the future resources.

The SNWA Has Succeeded

The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s success has not gone unnoticed. Water conservation efforts have saved billions of gallons of water in the Southern Nevada region for the past two decades. Plans such as the useless grass ban, prohibiting new grass installation, and the rebate program have led to an overall decline in wasteful water use. Even with a population increase, the per capita water use has decreased by 47 percent. 

The 50-year planning horizon is the SNWA’s approach to meeting future water needs despite unsteady conditions. The plan is built into the flexible portfolio, where the Water Authority expects to meet the community’s needs regardless of the circumstance. The temporary resources will continue to aid in offsetting long-term effects. The permanent resources will always be available, while future resources are developments in progress. 

You, too, can help by following one of the many guidelines recommended by the SNWA, keeping a close watch on your irrigation clock, and only running your water outside during recommended time frames. Use methods such as drip irrigation or adjusting your sprinkler cycle. You can also apply for the rebate program by having your grass removed and replaced with turf from Turf Envy!

Turf Envy & SNWA GIF created by Eileen Mangold

Remove useless grass GIF created by David Chen

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