Lawns are turning brown all over California, and pools are filling with dirt. The so-called lush life has given way to a dwindling water supply.
The water comes from the Colorado River, which flows into Lake Mead, the same source that provides southern Nevada with water, but unlike California, the valley isn’t facing restrictions. In fact, water officials say they have a plan to keep us hydrated for the next 50 years.
“At all levels of shortage, SNWA will be able to meet the community’s needs because of the work that the community has done to reduce their demands,” said Zane Marshall, SNWD Director of Water Resources and Facilities.
In a presentation Tuesday, the Southern Nevada Water District’s Director of Water Resources said the state is only using about 75 percent of its allotment of Colorado River water. That means that even if the Lake Mead dropped 50 feet triggering stages of water supply cuts, Nevada would still be allowed to pump out more water than it uses on a yearly basis.
Right now, the state can use water credits to pump an additional five years worth out of the lake if needed.
“So even if we get into shortage, we’ll be able to meet our community’s needs well into the future,” Marshall said.
The question now: How did we cut our water use? Especially since the valley has grown by half a million people.
Recycled water for irrigation at places like parks is one way it was done, but the biggest impact comes from conservation. One of the ways the Water District is encouraging conservation is by paying residents to get rid of the grass in their yard.
“It was all grass and half an acre. My water bill for June, July and August was $500 a month,” said Greg Corbin, removed grass from yard five years ago.
A majority of the homeowners in Corbin’s neighborhood ditched their grass lawns for rock gardens. Corbin said the gravel cost him over $12,000, but the water district gave him $10,000 towards the cost.
Corbin said the 80 percent he saves on his water bill covered the rest.
“It’s worth every penny, worth saving every penny,” Corbin said.
But, it doesn’t just save money, it also saves water.
Water managers caution by 2030, the demand for water could exceed what Nevada can pump from the river. One long term option being considered is a proposed multi-billion dollar groundwater project to pipe water from rural Nevada. The plan is controversial and has repeatedly been blocked by court rulings.