By Adam Clarkson
A recent series of investigative reports in The New York Times focusing on the ongoing drought in California contained some alarming news for residents of every state in the Southwest.
Prompted by California Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to impose mandatory rationing of water use in that state, the articles painted a dire picture. Now well into its fourth year, the drought plaguing California is considered the most drastic since the state started keeping records in the 1800s.
According to scientists, however, this drought might be a mere blip, historically speaking. Not only California but the entire Southwest has occasionally sustained so-called megadroughts that persisted for decades — in some extreme cases, even as long as two centuries.
One headline in the recent Times series even read: “The End of California?”
Insert your own punch line here.
I kid our neighbor to the west, and although the issue of water usage in Nevada does not present a perfect parallel to California’s — for example, the Golden State has a massive agricultural industry that serves to exacerbate its water crisis — we can take a cue from the state’s efforts to conserve water.
Our state is facing a lengthy drought of its own, according to the Southern Nevada Water Authority. As the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported recently, authority officials are preparing to open the “third straw” drawing water from the deepest parts of Lake Mead to supply a much-needed lifeline to the Las Vegas Valley. If the lake’s water levels continue to drop, the two existing intakes would eventually stop working and our region could face a drought emergency.
To be clear, every homeowners community has its own set of unique circumstances. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to water conservation. However, many residential communities in the Las Vegas Valley have enjoyed exceptional results by replacing their water-thirsty traditional grass landscaping with water-smart xeriscaping that features native desert flora and greens as well as synthetic grass.
If converting to xeriscaping is right for your community, it is likely you will even derive some immediate financial benefits. Since the launch of the water authority’s Water Smart Landscapes Rebate Program 16 years ago, Las Vegas Valley homes and businesses have upgraded more than 168 million square feet of traditional lawns to water-efficient desert landscaping. As a direct result, the region has saved billions of gallons of water.
No matter where you live, landscape irrigation is the biggest source of domestic water usage and installing desert landscaping and synthetic turf at home can go a long way in conserving water. Desert landscaping requires 55 gallons less water per square foot per year than grass, according to the water authority.
That’s why locally, I applaud residential communities such as MacDonald Highlands and municipalities such as Henderson and Las Vegas that implemented regulations designed to combat the drought affecting the Southwest and to preserve our region’s most valuable resource: water.
Adam Clarkson is the owner/principal of The Clarkson Law Group P.C., which has offices in Las Vegas, Reno and San Francisco. His practice is dedicated to advising homeowner associations as corporate counsel. Reach him at 702-462-5700.