A deep look into the law banning ornamental grass.
They are banning Ornamental Grass, you heard it correctly. Does it sound a bit extreme? On the surface sure and it may be extraordinary, but hard times call for tough measures to be taken.
If you are new to the desert lifestyle, it might be a bit of a shock. Las Vegas is known for its decadence, spare no expense, extravagant & over the top atmosphere, but this imagery doesn't apply to our use of water.
If you are from Southern Nevada or have lived in Southern Nevada for the last year or more, this comes as no surprise. Grass in the front yard has already been prohibited since 2003 and backyards can only have 50% of the yard size. Locals are constantly reminded through local efforts about water conservation.
Las Vegas and the general Southwest is in a drought and not just any drought but a MEGA Drought, that is a drought lasting more than 2 decades. The Colorado River has been shrinking at rapid levels year over year since early 2000, dropping by around 150ft. Early in the 2000s with a swift call to action in Southern Nevada, the community created and implemented the most comprehensive water conservation plan in the nation.
According to the Las Vegas Valley Water District, Las Vegas gets 90 percent of its water from the Colorado River, and we are in the worst drought in recorded history. The Colorado River plays an important role in Las Vegas and serves as the source of most of our community's drinking water.
Recently the Nevada Legislature passed a law, bill AB356, prohibiting the use of the Colorado River water for unused, decorative grass around the Las Vegas Valley. Banning grass is one of the strict measures being taken to mitigate the effects of the drought and force water conservation in Las Vegas.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE?
The ban is geared to “non-functional turf”. It will apply to grass no one really uses at office parks or in street medians, and at the entrances to housing developments. It excludes single-family homes, parks, and golf courses. The law set a deadline of 2027 for the work to be completed.
The new law is really geared to help ensure what water is left goes further. It’s an example of the kind of strict measure other regions may be forced to take to mitigate damages.
The Federal government is also making some hard choices. The federal government on Tuesday announced it will delay the release of water from one of the Colorado River’s major reservoirs, an unprecedented action. It is a temporary fix to an ongoing battle against mother nature.
The decision means they will keep more water in Lake Powell, the reservoir located at the Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona. Rather than allowing it downstream to Lake Mead, they will keep it at Glen Canyon Dam, which is the river’s other primary reservoir.
Without taking this action, electricity for about 5.8 million customers in the inland West will be put in jeopardy. If water levels get too low at the Glen Canyon Dam, it will no longer be able to generate electricity. Water levels at both reservoirs reached their lowest levels on record. Lake Powell’s water level is currently at an elevation of 3,523 feet. If the level drops below 3,490 feet, the so-called minimum power pool, there is grid failure for millions of people.
COLORADO RIVER MANAGEMENT & OVERSIGHT HISTORY
Important to note the Colorado River water is managed by the Colorado River Compact and several other agreements known as the "Law of the River". The Colorado River Compact was signed in 1922, providing the governing and allocation of water rights to the parties of the compact. The parties are Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Nevada. Their interests are broken down in the table below from wikipedia.com
|Upper Basin, 7.5 million acre·ft/year (293 m³/s) total|
|Colorado||51.75%*||3.86 million acre·ft/year (150.7 m³/s)|
|Utah||23.00%*||1.71 million acre·ft/year (67.0 m³/s)|
|Wyoming||14.00%*||1.04 million acre·ft/year (40.8 m³/s)|
|New Mexico||11.25%*||0.84 million acre·ft/year (32.8 m³/s)|
|Arizona||0.70%||0.05 million acre·ft/year (2.0 m³/s)|
|*Percentages with a star are a percentage of the total after Arizona's
0.05 million are deducted. Arizona's percentage is of the total.
|Lower Basin, 7.5 million acre·ft/year (293 m³/s) total|
|California||58.70%||4.40 million acre·ft/year (172 m³/s)|
|Arizona||37.30%||2.80 million acre·ft/year (109 m³/s)|
|Nevada||4.00%||0.30 million acre·ft/year (12 m³/s)|
Because it was signed in 1922, the population in each respective state was much smaller and the allocations made sense. However, the population in all states have increased significantly. The allocations have caused many disputes and disgruntled parties throughout the years.
Since the development of the Colorado River Compact, California has been using the surplus water that has been left over from all the other states.
There has always been a huge concern regarding Nevada's increasing population and the state's water usage. Nevada, with the smallest water allocation, is finding the water supplied by the Colorado River will not meet the state's growing needs. Additional allocations of water have not been altered because our State has maintained through water conservation efforts the ability to sustain what is allocated to us. The Natural Resources Division (NRD) of the Colorado River Commission of Nevada (CRC) is responsible for protecting the rights and interests of the State of Nevada’s allocated share of Colorado River water.
The ban follows years of extensive efforts to cut water use, including a voluntary “cash for grass” program, still going on today. It began in 1999, for individual homeowners to lose their lawns, put limits on watering, and establish a team of water waste investigators. If you want information about cash for grass contact www.snwa.com today. Not only is this program saving you money, it is also saving our community!
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
According to the Las Vegas Valley Water District www.lvvwd.com, as a resident or business owner, you can help safeguard our community's water supply by
- Following your mandatory watering schedule, either change your own irrigation clock each season to comply or make sure your landscaper does so.
- Replacing purely decorative grass with desert-friendly landscaping.
- Fixing leaking sprinklers or anything else that’s causing water to flow or spray off your property.
- Make sure water isn't leaking inside your home or in your yard.
- Take advantage of financial incentives to update your old watering clock, purchase a smart water leak detector, or remove grass.
- Reporting water waste around town when you spot it happening.
WHAT CONSTITUTES WATER WASTE?
According to the Las Vegas Valley Water districts site (www.lvvwd.com)
Water waste is defined by the Las Vegas Valley Water District service rules as:Allowing water provided by the Water District to flow or spray off the property.
- Failure to correct a malfunctioning device or supply line, where the customer or their agent has known of the problem for more than 48 hours.
- Non-compliance with Service Rule provisions regarding washing vehicles, equipment, driveways, parking lots, sidewalks, streets or other surfaces or objects.
- Discharging swimming pool or spa water drainage off the property where discharge into a public sanitary sewer is available.
- Using spray irrigation (such as sprinklers) between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. from May 1 through Aug. 31.
- Non-compliance with Service Rule provisions relating to ornamental water features, man-made lakes, and misters.Non-compliance with watering group assignments.
While the restrictions do add another layer of things to know about Las Vegas, they are not difficult to meet, and everyone's contributions over the past two decades have really helped our city manage the water we do receive and stay within the "water budget' we are allocated.
Southern Nevada water teams have done an outstanding job mitigating the effects of our mega-drought and work tirelessly to continue making progress. These teams include but are not limited to:
- Southern Nevada Water Authority
- The Las Vegas Valley Water District
- The Clark County Water Reclamation District
- The City of Las Vegas officials
- Clark County officials
- The City of Henderson
- The Nevada Division of Water
- The Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Everyone involved over the last 20 years has done an exceptional job managing, controlling, making aware, and stepping into the challenges presented. Water is a precious resource and this work will continue over the next 20 years.
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