Conservation Efforts Prepare Valley
for Continued Growth
Published March 3, 2020
What are some of the biggest challenges that the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) faces through the valley's current growth spurt?
For the past three decades, Southern Nevada has been one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country. This rate of growth presents innumerable challenges, but also provides us with opportunities to address the critical importance of conserving water in the community.
Lake Mead in the east Las Vegas valley.
Over the years, we have seen an overwhelmingly positive response from the community about water conservation. We have cultivated a water conservation ethic and we continually see new residents embracing and adapting to a water-efficient lifestyle.
To help ensure that new growth and development is water smart, we’ve worked with local municipalities to amend development codes that prohibit grass in any new commercial developments. For new residential development, grass is not permitted in the front yards and limited to only 50 percent of the backyard. This has helped ensure that commercial and residential developments built today are more water efficient than developments built in the 1980s and ‘90s.
"As a result of Southern Nevada conservation efforts, consumptive water use declined by approximately 27 billion gallons (25 percent) between 2002 and 2018, despite the influx of 690,000 new residents and more than 40 million annual visitors during that span."
What is the SNWA doing in order to make sure that we have ample water supply?
The SNWA maintains a 50-year Water Resource Plan that provides a comprehensive overview of Southern Nevada’s projected water demands for the next half-century, and the plan identifies the necessary water resources to meet those demands. The plan considers the impacts that drought, climate change and changing economic conditions may have on our community’s long-term water demands to ensure a reliable water supply. We update the Resource Plan annually, so we always have a multi-decadal outlook on what our community’s water needs will be.
Record visitor numbers have not had a negative impact
on water consumption in the region.
Additionally, we’ve implemented a host of nationally recognized conservation programs to help manage Southern Nevada’s water demands. Chief among these is the Water Smart Landscapes Rebate program, which pays property owners $3 for every square foot of grass converted to drip-irrigated landscaping. The program has saved nearly 130 billion gallons of water by converting more than 193 million square feet of grass to water-smart landscaping.
Turf removal at a Southern Nevada residence.
The community also has been extremely responsive to mandatory seasonal watering restrictions, which limit landscape irrigation to certain days of the week and times of day depending on the season. If customers are not complying with the watering schedule or allowing water to flow off their property, they can also receive a water waste violation and fine from their water utility.
As a result of Southern Nevada conservation efforts, consumptive water use declined by approximately 27 billion gallons (25 percent) between 2002 and 2018, despite the influx of 690,000 new residents and more than 40 million annual visitors during that span.
The majority of our conservation efforts are focused on our outdoor water use. That’s the water we only use once. The water we use indoors gets reclaimed and treated to clean water standards and returned to Lake Mead. For every gallon we return to Lake Mead, we can take another gallon out and bring it into the valley as treated drinking water. This safely and sustainably extends our limited water supply.
The SNWA also has invested in major infrastructure projects to assure delivery of water to the community. Our Major Construction and Capital Plan provides for investments in developing water resources, securing renewable energy resources, and constructing critical infrastructure projects such as the Third Intake and Low Lake Level Pumping Station at Lake Mead. Combined, the new intake and pumping station represent a $1.4 billion investment that our community has made to secure access to our primary water supplies in Lake Mead.
A connector tunnel part of SNWA's
low lake level pumping station at Lake Mead.
How does SNWA work with other partes to ensure that there is a manageable and sustainable growth plan for the region?
SNWA is the regional, wholesale water provider for Southern Nevada. Our member agencies are primarily responsible for making the land-use decisions and approving development projects within their respective jurisdictions. Our role is to manage the region’s water supplies and identify long-term demands to ensure reliable supplies for current and future users in this valley. We do this through partnerships with other Colorado River states; maintaining Southern Nevada’s diverse water resource portfolio; developing the Water Resource Plan and annual water budgets; managing progressive and comprehensive water conservation programs; and working with local municipalities to implement development codes for efficient water use.
"Moving forward over the next three to five years, we will begin to see enhanced metering technology that will allow local water utilities to inform customers about their water use in near real-time."
What role does and will technology play in the conservation of our region's water supply?
We are a technologically advanced organization and we are constantly evaluating emerging technologies that can improve our water treatment and delivery operations, reduce community-wide water consumption, and enhance service to our community.
Currently, we are working with WaterStart, a local non-profit connected with the Desert Research Institute that works to identify emerging technologies within the water sector. Through this partnership, we pilot test new innovations in water treatment, conservation and resource management, which helps to improve or enhance the technologies for larger scale deployment. Both the SNWA and the Las Vegas Valley Water District have successfully tested a number of new technologies that are now used regularly within our operations.
At the customer level, we provide incentives for customer to install smart irrigation controllers that automatically adjust landscape watering schedules according to weather conditions and smart leak detectors that notify property owners of on-premise leaks.
Moving forward over the next three to five years, we will begin to see enhanced metering technology that will allow local water utilities to inform customers about their water use in near real-time. Anomalies in a customer’s water usage pattern – such as a large spike in water use or continuous consumption – will be communicated to the to customers for immediate correction. Providing customers with more information about their water use will help further improve our community’s overall water efficiency.
Don't miss John Entsminger and his co-panelists from
Southwest Gas and NV Energy discuss
the efforts they are making for a sustainable Southern Nevada at the
2020 Las Vegas Property Development & Infrastructure Conference:
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