Carson City, Nevada • In Sin City, one thing that will soon become unforgivable is useless weed.
A new Nevada law will ban about 40% of the grass in the Las Vegas area in an effort to conserve water amid a drought that is drying up the region’s main water source: the Colorado River.
Other cities and states in the United States have enacted temporary bans on lawns that must be watered, but legislation signed by Governor Steve Sisolak on Friday makes Nevada the first in the country to enact a permanent ban on certain categories of turf. .
Sisolak said last week that anyone flying into Las Vegas looking at the “tub rings” that mark the water level in Lake Mead can see that conservation is needed.
“It is incumbent on us as the next generation to be more aware of conservation and our natural resources – water being especially important,” he said.
The ban targets what the Southern Nevada Water Authority calls “non-functioning sod.” It applies to the grass that hardly anyone uses in office parks, medians and entrances to subdivisions. It excludes single family homes, parks and golf courses.
The measure will require the replacement of approximately 8 square miles of grass in the Las Vegas metro area. By pulling it out, water officials estimate the region can reduce its annual water use by 15% and save about 14 gallons per person per day in an area of about 2.3 million people.
The ban was passed by state lawmakers with bipartisan backing and backing from groups like the Great Basin Water Network conservation group and the Southern Nevada Homebuilders’ Association, which wants to free up water for the expected growth and future construction.
When the ban goes into effect in 2027, it will only apply to the jurisdiction of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which encompasses Las Vegas and surrounding areas and depends on the Colorado River for 90% of its water supply.
As the area has developed, the agency has banned developers from planting front lawns in new subdivisions and has spent years offering some of the area’s most generous discounts to owners of older properties. – up to $ 3 per square foot – for removing grass and with drought resistant landscaping.
Water officials said falling demand for these discounts has made bolder measures necessary. The legislation also requires the formation of an advisory committee to define exceptions to the ban.
Other cities and states have enacted temporary weed bans during short-term droughts, but Nevada is the first place in the country to implement a regional ban on certain uses of weed.
The ban came as the seven states that depend on the overexploited Colorado River for water – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming – envision a drier future.
Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the two reservoirs where Colorado River water is stored, are expected to shrink this year to levels that would trigger the first-ever official declaration of shortages in the region and reduce the amount allocated to Nevada and Arizona.
Water officials in both states have said that even with the cuts, they will still have enough water to accommodate projected population growth, but are working to limit certain types of consumption.
In Arizona, farmers in Pinal County, south of Phoenix, have had to stop irrigating their fields because of the cuts. Nevada stands to lose about 4% of its allocation, although the state has historically not used all of its share.
Sam Metz is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, non-profit service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.