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Water Agency Pushes Conservation Program As Expansion, Drought Persists

The Southern Nevada Water Authority recently decided to up the ante on one of its signature conservation efforts commonly known as "cash for grass." 

Residents and business owners can now get $3 for every square foot of grass they rip out and replace with desert landscaping.  

That’s happy news for a grim problem: Southern Nevada is still facing a severe drought, and water managers estimate Lake Mead could fall into shortage levels as soon as 2019.  

John Entsminger, the general manager of SNWA, said the program has already been very successful.

“We’ve taken out enough grass in this valley to lay an 18-inch piece of sod 94 percent around the circumference of the globe,” he said.

But there are about 200 million square feet of grass still out in the valley that the SNWA wants removed. And Entsminger said getting that turf out could have a big impact.  

“So, if we were able to get all 200 million square feet of grass what it would do is secure our water supply for at least the next 50 years," he said, "It would put us in a tremendous position in terms of our overall water portfolio.”

The grass the agency is talking about is not grass for parks, soccer fields or backyards but grass that is only walked on when it is mowed.

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Entsminger expects Southern Nevadans to step up and get their turf removed.

“Nevadans realize with Lake Mead in our backyard that our water supply comes from that lake and we need to act to protect it and be proactive,” he said.

And while there are other supply-side solutions that remain on the table like the planned pipeline that would bring groundwater from Northern Nevada to Southern Nevada and possible desalination plants in Mexico, the biggest effort is still in making sure people conserve.

“That is our number 1 resource option is to control the demand side of the equation rather than to increase the supply side of the equation,” Entsminger said.

Guests

John Entsminger, general manager, Southern Nevada Water Authority 

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