Authorities in the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, are attempting to remove “non-functional turf” in order to conserve water in the desert region.
The city might be known for its decadent displays and lavish lifestyle, but water officials in the area are trying to get residents to limit their use of water and lessen the negative impact that droughts can have on the area.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s 2020 Integrated Resource Planning Advisory Committee released its recommendations for what actions should be taken in order to increase conservation efforts in the future. It reported that its priority areas include “targeting the reduction of non-functional turf and limiting turf installation in new development. The report stated that as of 2019, around 5,000 acres of “non-functional turf” are in the Southern Nevada Water Agency’s service area. The turf is “predominantly located in streetscapes, common areas and commercial frontage.” The SNWA is reportedly trying to lessen the non-functional turf acreage that currently exists by 50% by 2035. It “assumes that achieving this target could save up to 365 million gallons of water annually.”
Justin Jones is a Clark County commissioner who serves on the water authority’s board. He confirmed that the attempt has seen pushback in some master-planned communities, but according to the Associated Press, he doesn’t think taking out ornamental grass will greatly impact the lives of people in the area.
“To be clear, we are not coming after your average homeowner’s backyard,” he said. But he called having grass in an area where no one walks “dumb.”
“The only people that ever set foot on grass that’s in the middle of a roadway system are people cutting the grass,” Jones said.
Officials are attempting to prepare the area for potential future droughts. The SNWA explained that the southern regions of the state primarily rely on the Colorado River for 90% of its supply of water. “The Colorado River system is facing the worst drought in the basin’s recorded history,” it said. “The water level of Lake Mead, which serves as one of the river’s primary water storage reservoirs, has dropped some 130 feet since January 2000.” It stated that the Authority has been reacting to the drought for almost two decades and its Water Resource Plan for 2020 is meant to address water needs for the short- and long-term.
The Associated Press reported that no other states or main cities have attempted to permanently get rid of specific types of grass. According to the outlet, Colby Pellegrino, Southern Nevada Water Authority water resources director, said, “The public perception outside of Las Vegas is certainly much different — and has been for a long time — than the water conservation ethic within the community.”
John Berggren, a water policy analyst at Western Resource Advocates, said, “The scale of this is pretty unprecedented in terms of a full ban on this nonfunctional turf.”
This is not the first time a state has taken measures in order to conserve water. In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown “signed an executive order requiring the State Water Resources Control Board to implement measures in cities and towns to cut the state’s overall water usage by 25 percent compared with 2013 levels,” according to Associated Press reporting at the time.
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