Officials hope new turf restrictions will send a signal to other states that southern Nevada is serious about water conservation.
The restrictions passed by the Las Vegas City Council will limit turf on front lawns to 50 percent of the area that can be landscaped, including the driveway. Businesses can plant grass on 25 percent of their outside property.Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, says the restrictions send a signal to other states in the Colorado River Compact. The compact breaks down the amount of water allocated to states along the river.
Southern Nevada will need to work with some of those states - particularly Arizona - in obtaining additional water that will be needed for future growth.
"I view it as very important," said Mulroy. "No other state is going to help out with water you might need. They want to know what you need and how you're conserving what you have. They will look at what measures you have in place to achieve your goals. One of the critical pieces is the turf limitation."
Water officials estimate the restrictions will save about 301 acre-feet in the first year, rising to 4,512 acre-feet within five years. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, or enough water to serve a family of five for a year.
Nevada currently has the right to 300,000 acre-feet per year from the Colorado River, the smallest allotment of any of the seven river states. By combining ground water, treated wastewater and small allotments from other sources, the water authority draws from a total available supply of about 558,000 acre-feet per year.
But by 2018, the authority estimates demand will rise to about 642,000 acre-feet a year, which is why officials are negotiating with neighboring states to bolster Nevada's available supply.
Southern Nevada's image throughout the Southwest is important, Mulroy said. For many years "we were flogged internationally for being extremely gluttonous and extremely water wasteful. It's taken a long time to even begin to change that perception and to show we have a very real need."