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City seeks solutions to water crisis

I’ve enjoyed living in Boulder City for over a year, making it a point to prioritize solutions for water sustainability for the current and future residents. Although unexpected, this summer brought an active monsoon season, which has been a welcomed change, yet a proverbial drop in the bucket.

Unfortunately, our region remains in the middle of a historic drought.

The Las Vegas Valley went 240 consecutive days without measurable rainfall in 2020. The annual snowpack that melted in the Rockies and flowed into the Colorado River isn’t what it used to be. Looking at Lake Mead, you can see the dire situation as the water levels continue dwindling.

“Into each life, some rain must fall,” or so says Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem “The Rainy Day.”

Last August, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced an emergency shortage declaration for Lake Mead and the lower Colorado River Basin. The federal government took it further one year later, announcing a tier 2 water reduction. These actions further limit the amount of water we can withdraw from Lake Mead by 8 percent — or 25,000 acre-feet of water per year.

Fortunately, Nevada has decreased consumptive use, consistently using less than the state’s allotment, as the Southern Nevada Water Authority estimates the state will use 240,000 acre-feet for 2022 — well under the new 275,000 acre-feet allotment. I’m proud to say that water consumption in Boulder City is down in 2022, but we know that more needs to be done.

To continue efforts toward sustainability, Boulder City earmarked more than $10 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds for water, wastewater and conservation projects. City Council unanimously approved Bill 1917 on Aug. 23, amending the city’s municipal code to address water conservation.

These changes include SNWA recommendations for the entire valley.

■ In Boulder City, effective Sept. 15, watering lawns are prohibited on Sundays, and new residential construction cannot plant grass.

■ Starting Jan. 1, water cannot continuously flow or spray into the public right-of-way (streets, sidewalks), and new swimming pools cannot exceed 600 square feet.

■ Civil violations will be addressed through a “notice of violation,” starting with a warning letter. Any fines collected must be used for water conservation purposes, including customer incentives (turf rebate programs, smart irrigation controllers, and water-efficient irrigation systems).

I recognize that the city needs to lead by example, and we are committed to doing so. City Council has approved the removal of 721,000 square feet of grass at Boulder City Municipal Golf Course — turf that sits outside the edges of areas needed for play. This removal represents 13 percent of the water usage at the municipal course. Further work is necessary to update the irrigation system and other improvements to meet the recently lowered four acre-feet per irrigated acre water budget for golf courses.

SNWA and our staff are looking at other places where “nonfunctional turf” can be removed, including in city parks and alongside roadways. Our Community Development Department is developing new landscape requirements for further development and guidance for parkway landscaping. The Public Works landscape division is planting and cross-seeding drought-tolerant grass in parks/facilities. Plans to update irrigation systems citywide should ensure water is used where and when it’s needed.

Currently, the city’s water and wastewater division removes solids from wastewater and treats the water as safe enough to sell for dust control or send into the desert. The city is working with the SNWA on the potential project for sustainable wastewater reclamation and reuse.

City staff is continuously coming up with new ideas and plans. Some solutions can be implemented immediately, but some will take time to develop. Our employees know how critical it is for everyone to do their part and take action.

For more information on what we are doing, visit www.bcnv.org/water. You can also learn about SNWA rebate programs to replace nonfunctional grass with desert landscaping or to purchase smart controllers to turn off sprinkler systems when we are lucky to receive rain.

Taylour Tedder is the city manager for Boulder City.

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