Las Vegas to Outlaw 30% of its Non Functional Grass Amidst Increasing Water Shortage

by Nabjot Kaur

Las Vegas to Outlaw 30% of its Non Functional Grass Amidst Increasing Water Shortage

June 11, 2021

Grass now a big No-No in the Desert City, ornamental turfs cry dry tears as weed smiles in irony.

Las Vegas is a desert city that has earned its reputation to be built out of a dry desert area. It’s one of the driest cities in the United States. Las Vegas city recently came up with the first-in-nation policy to ban ornamental grass that no one walks on. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signed a bill under the legislature stating the water conservation efforts, as mentioned in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The assembly Bill 356 will prohibit water from the river distributed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority from being used to irrigate “nonfunctional turf”, stated a news source. The bill will come into effect on 1 January 2027.

The sin city has been facing a water shortage for quite some time now. Lake Mead, the primary water source to Las Vegas city and surrounding area, is constantly drying up and is only 37% full. The Colorado River, from where Lake Mead gets its water, is facing a drought. Colorado river is normally replenished by snow melting in the region’s mountains. However, the melt-off was lower than average this year. Mr Sisolak told reporters last week that, “I think that it’s incumbent upon us for the next generation to be more conscious of the conservation of our natural resources, water being essential”. In the last 20 years, the city has restricted new turf and yard watering. The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) spent millions on a pumping station project to increase the city’s water capacity. Also, Vegas area water officials are trying to remove unwanted turf and replace thirsty plants with desert plants for the last two decades.

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,” Colby Pellegrino, Southern Nevada Water Authority water resources director.

Water officials say the ban will eliminate about 31% of the grass in the region. ... The ban comes as western states that rely on the Colorado River for water prepare for the federal government to issue its first-ever official shortage declaration.

Serving as the leading commercial, financial and cultural centre for Nevada, Las Vegas City is mainly known for its nightlife, entertainment, gambling and ostentatious displays like Bellagio fountains on the neon-lit Strip. You’d be surprised to know that city residents praise and embrace the conservation measures taken by the Nevada legislature besides all this. Under this conservation measure, the water authority has offered $3 for every square foot of unused turf converted to desert appropriate land. So far, the program has successfully encouraged people to remove around 4,500 acres of nonfunctional grass.

Nevada Assemblyman Howard Watts III, the bill’s sponsor, stated that he hopes other western states also take similar measures to conserve water leading up to 2027 when they renegotiate the Colorado River’s Drought Contingency Plan. He also praised Sisolak for taking this much-needed action on conservation. State lawmakers passed the ban with the support of bipartisan, Great Basin Water Network Conservation Group and the Southern Nevada Homebuilders’ Association. They want a better future for Vegas.

Justin Jones, a commissioner in Clark County, said that the ban would not bring any noticeable change to people’s lives. “To be clear, we are not coming after your average homeowner’s backyard, but grass in the middle of a highway is, dumb” Jones said. He also said that no one walks on the nonfunctional grass apart from the people who maintain it.

Since 2019, Nevada saw a shocking 9 per cent increase in water usage. Being a desert city, it recorded 270 days without any rainfall, which further poses a more significant threat to water availability. Cynthia Campbell, the water resources adviser for the city of Phoenix in Arizona, feared that cutting out on Nonfunctional grass may make the city too hot for the residents as trees and grass help in combating the excess heat.

The authorities are still trying to figure out the best possible measures to combat water shortage in the city and surrounding regions. With the increase in temperature due to global warming, it has become more critical than ever to rethink our habits and choices and move towards a safer future. Colby Pellegrino, the Southern Nevada Water Authority director, said that “every community that relies on Colorado River water will have to make changes.”


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