Is That an Outlaw Lawn? Las Vegas Has a New Approach to Saving Water

With drought and growth taking a toll on the Colorado River, the source of 90 percent of the region’s water, a new law mandates the removal of turf, patch by patch.

Bye Bye Lawn

Outlawing grass is perhaps the most dramatic effort yet to conserve water in the Southwest, where decades of growth and 20 years of drought made worse by a warming climate have led to dwindling supplies from the Colorado River, which serves Nevada and six other states, Native American tribes and Mexico.

Jaime Gonzalez of Par 3 Landscape and Maintenance removed grass at a condominium complex in Las Vegas. The lawn is considered “nonfunctional” under a new state law.

For Southern Nevada, home to nearly 2.5 million people and visited by upward of 40 million tourists a year, the problem is particularly acute. The region depends on Lake Mead, the nearby reservoir behind Hoover Dam on the Colorado, for 90 percent of its drinking water.

A tourist at Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. The lake, which supplies 90 percent of Southern Nevada’s water, is lower than at any point since the dam was built in the 1930s.

The lake has been shrinking since 2000, and is now so low the original water intake was exposed last week. The regional water utility, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, has been so concerned that it spent $1.5 billion over a decade building a much deeper intake and a new pumping station, recently put into operation, so it can take water even as the level continues to drop.

Larry Fossan, facilities maintenance manager at Sun City Anthem, a large planned community near Las Vegas, on a stretch of lawn that will have to be removed.

The ban follows years of extensive efforts to cut water use, including a voluntary “cash for grass” program, begun in 1999, for individual homeowners to lose their lawns, limits on watering, and the establishment of a team of water waste investigators. But with no end in sight for the drought, and with the region’s continued growth, measures like these haven’t been enough

Source: New York Times

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