With ongoing, severe drought conditions reducing water levels in Lake Mead, there is a high probability that Southern Nevada’s water supply allocation will be reduced by 7 billion gallons next year – enough water to serve more than 40,000 households annually.

While this is alarming, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) has been responding to and preparing for continued drought for the past two decades through infrastructure investments, agreements with Colorado River basin states, and a myriad conservation programs and cash incentives.

“Conservation remains key to weathering this historic drought,” said Doug Bennett, SNWA conservation manager. “The long-term viability of our community depends not only upon continued conservation, but increased efforts by businesses and residents.”

According to Bennett, the best way for the community to conserve water is to follow the mandatory seasonal watering restrictions, prevent and report water waste, and replace nonfunctional grass with drip-irrigated landscaping.

“Reducing outdoor water use is key to protecting our water resources, and despite our efforts, there’s still an enormous amount of nonfunctional grass in this valley,” Bennett said, noting that 5,000 acres of decorative grass blankets the valley and uses about 12 billion gallons of water a year. “The amount of water we’re applying to these decorative turf areas exceeds the shortage impacts we’re facing under a drought shortage declaration. The solution to balancing our supply is literally beneath our feet.”

To help property owners convert thirsty grass to a drip-irrigated landscape, the SNWA offers a Water Smart Landscape rebate of $3 per square foot of grass converted. The cash incentive often covers the majority of the costs for businesses, HOAs and multifamily properties looking to reduce their water bills and landscape maintenance costs.

“We’ve converted grass at numerous multifamily properties and seen the benefits of water smart landscapes,” said Bret Holmes, president of Advanced Management Group (AMG), a property management company overseeing more than 44 multifamily complexes in the Las Vegas area. “The landscape upgrades lowered the properties’ water bills thanks to much lower water usage. We also were able to reduce landscape maintenance costs.”

AMG is one of the property management teams leading the way when it comes to water conservation. The company sees the benefit to the community and the customers it serves by replacing grass. “It really is better for the environment and the city,” Holmes said, noting that the water and cost savings also are good for the bottom line.

In 2019, AMG enrolled the Pecos Professional Park in the SNWA’s Water Smart Landscape rebate program before converting all the grass on the property. The 3,540 square feet of decorative grass lined the street, parking lot and building. The project garnered the property more than $10,000 in cash incentives and saves nearly 195,000 gallons of water per year.

While businesses like AMG help their clients see the economic and environmental benefits of converting grass to a water-smart landscape, many commercial properties have put off making the change despite the generous SNWA cash incentives and positive benefits to a business’ bottom line.

“We’ve seen residential customers step up and replace more than 60 percent of the nonfunctional turf in the valley. The majority of remaining decorative, non-functional turf is on commercial and HOA properties, medians and streetscapes,” said Bennett. “What we’re hearing from HOAs and property management companies is that they’re worried about backlash from residents. They’re afraid tenants won’t support the landscape upgrades, but our research shows the opposite is true.”
A recent SNWA survey of local residents showed that 90 percent supported replacing grass at retail centers, office parks, multifamily properties and HOA common areas. “In fact, nearly 70 percent said they want SNWA to force property owners to replace grass with water-smart landscaping.”

The SNWA offers multiple cash incentives and conservation programs to entice businesses, HOAs and property management companies to conserve water, and in so doing, reduce their water bills and operating costs.

“Water is the very fuel of our economy and our citizen’s livelihoods. We need business leaders to champion water conservation as a measure of ensuring economic sustainability and quality of life in our community,” Bennett said. He added that SNWA conservation experts offer a consultation service to commercial properties and HOAs looking to save water. “Our staff will come to your site to help identify opportunities to save water through landscape conversions and irrigation management as well as for implementing water-saving technologies.

SNWA 702-862-3740 or snwa.com

Patrick Watson
Conservation Services Administrator
Southern Nevada Water Authority
patrick.watson@snwa.com  702-862-3734

In 2019, Advanced Management Group converted 3,540 square feet of decorative grass to water-efficient landscaping at the Pecos Professional Park. The project garnered more than $10,000 in cash incentives and saves nearly 195,000 gallons of water a year.

Landscape conversion projects like the one at the Pecos Professional Park not only earn cash incentives through SNWA’s Water Smart Landscape rebate, but also reduce property water bills and operating costs.