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Drought-stricken Nevada promulgates ban on ‘non-functional’ weed

CARSON CITY, Nevada (AP) – In Sin City, one thing that will soon become unforgivable is useless weed.

A new Nevada law will ban about 31% 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 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-functional sod.” It applies to grass that hardly anyone uses in office parks, in medians and at the entrances to housing estates. It excludes single family homes, parks and golf courses.

Nevada Assembly Member Howard Watts III, the bill’s sponsor, said he hoped other Western states would consider similar action until 2026, when they renegotiate the contingency plan. against the drought of the Colorado River. He applauded Sisolak for taking concrete conservation action after Utah Gov. Spencer Cox asked people to pray for rain last week.

“There is a wide acceptance in southern Nevada that if we can remove grass to preserve our communities’ water supply, then this is something we need to do,” he said. . “It sends a clear message about what other states need to consider in order to conserve water.”

The measure will require the replacement of approximately 6 square miles (16 square kilometers) of grass in the Las Vegas metro area. By pulling it out, water officials estimate that the region can conserve 10% of its total Colorado River water supply and save about 11 gallons (41 liters) per person per day in an area of ​​about 2, 3 million inhabitants.

“Replacing the non-functioning sod in southern Nevada will enable more sustainable and efficient use of resources, build resilience to climate change, and help ensure that the community’s current and future water needs continue to be met,” said John, chief executive of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Entsminger.

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 release water to allow the projected 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 newer subdivisions and has spent years offering some of the area’s most generous discounts to property owners over old – up to $ 3 per square foot (0.1 square meter) pull up the grass and replace it with drought-tolerant 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 region’s very first official declaration of shortages 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 cope with projected population growth, but are working to limit certain types of consumption.

In Arizona, farmers in Pinal County, south of Phoenix, 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, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.

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