LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — More cities have pledged to join Las Vegas in eliminating unnecessary grass in a cooperative effort to use less precious water from the Colorado River on lawns.

A “Memorandum of Understanding” with support from municipal governments including Phoenix, San Diego and Denver, along with the water agency that supplies 19 million people in the Los Angeles area, is a sign that a more unified effort to conserve water has support.

Letters in support of better conservation efforts provided a platform for governments to trumpet their success so far — but there’s much more to do, according to John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

“As we consider the long-term aridification of the Colorado River Basin, the math is simple: water uses exceed water supplies,” Entsminger said. “But solving that equation will require all Colorado River water users across every sector to make hard decisions and be fully invested in water conservation if we are going to bring our shared river system into balance.”

In addition to cutting ornamental turf by 30%, the municipal governments that signed the letter — more than 30 cities and regional water districts — agreed to:

  • Expand water efficiency programs for indoor and outdoor water use.
  • Increase water reuse and recycling programs where feasible.
  • Put in place water efficiency strategies and best practices. Those measures could include water loss controls, conservation-based rate structures, industrial and commercial conservation, land use coordination and other conservation strategies.

A national nonprofit conservation organization hailed the memorandum, calling it a “positive and necessary step to help address current Colorado River conditions.”

Alliance for Water Efficiency President and CEO Ron Burke said, “Because water services are generally delivered, and largely funded, by local water utilities and cities, local and regional policies and programs are very important for advancing water efficiency.”

Agricultural uses of the river were not addressed in the memorandum. The statement is much like a resolution in Congress — there is no power to enforce the conservation measures.

“This is a fine promise to make, but it doesn’t come with assurances that water will actually be saved — nor is there a steadfast figure as to what will be conserved,” said Kyle Roerink of the Great Basin Water Network. “We have to wonder: Will the entities actually conserve this water when they rip out lawns and install other efficiencies, or will they use it to sprawl? The word conservation gets thrown around quite often. But what we often see is repurposing. Actions speak louder than MOUs.” 

The municipal governments and water agencies that signed the memorandum are:

  • Central Arizona Project
  • City of Chandler, Arizona
  • Town of Gilbert, Arizona
  • City of Mesa, Arizona
  • City of Peoria, Arizona
  • City of Phoenix
  • Scottsdale (Arizona) Water
  • City of Tempe, Arizona
  • City of Burbank, California
  • Coachella Valley (California) Water District
  • Eastern Municipal Water District (southeast of Riverside, California)
  • Foothill Municipal Water District (near Pasadena, California)
  • Long Beach (California) Water
  • Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Anaheim, Beverly Hills, Burbank, Compton, Fullerton, Glendale, Long Beach, Los Angeles)
  • San Diego County Water Authority
  • City of Santa Monica, California
  • Rancho California Water District (near Temecula, Murrieta)
  • Western Municipal Water District (near Riverside, California)
  • Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority
  • City of Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • City of Aurora, Colorado
  • Castle Rock (Colorado) Water
  • City of Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • City of Denver
  • City of Pueblo, Colorado
  • Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District
  • Southern Nevada Water Authority
  • Salt Lake City
  • Central Utah Water Conservancy District
  • Jordan Valley (Utah) Water Conservancy District
  • Washington County Water Conservancy District, Utah

“Forging a sustainable future for the Colorado River will take a commitment from all of us to use less water. More than two dozen water agencies from cities across the Southwest have made this commitment on behalf of the millions of people they serve,” said Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “This MOU is a key step towards bringing the River into balance, and powerful proof that working together, we can build solutions.”